Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"Are You a Writer?"

"Are you a writer?"

The question caught me off guard.  I had been explaining to my brother-in-law about the Slice of Life Story Challenge when he dropped that bomb of a question that sucked the air right out of the room.  I didn't know how to respond.

Am I a writer?

I was embarrassed to answer yes.  Who was I to say I was a writer?  Am I a published author?  No.  Not unless you count a UCSB English Department publication that included an essay I wrote my freshman year.  (And that was close to a million years ago anyway.)  Do I have a work in progress?  No.  I do have a collection of disconnected scenes I wrote two summers ago when I participated in Teachers Write, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't count.  Am I enrolled in any classes or belong to any writing groups? No and no.  

All I have is a blog I started somewhat accidentally two years ago (again, when I was participating in Teachers Write).  Every once in a while I will share my writing there.  My audience, however, has been admittedly limited.  So, even that doesn't seem like it would qualify me as a writer.

"Well, I was an English major in college," I stammered almost apologetically, as if I needed some explanation, some excuse for thinking I could take part in a writing challenge.  With so much evidence supporting the conclusion that I was not a writer, why couldn't I just laugh and admit I wasn't?

Because somehow "no" didn't feel like the right answer either.   If I am not a "writer," then what am I?  For the last 25 days I have sat down faithfully, even on days when I felt like I just didn't want to, and I have written.  Sometimes the ideas just weren't there.  I wrote anyway.  Sometimes my head was filled with ideas but the words refused to flow.  Still I wrote.  There were days I would have to stop what I was doing in the normal course of my day to jot down ideas in my writer's notebook.  Once I even walked to my son's class to pick him up, scribbling away, all the while simultaneously praying I wouldn't run into anyone or, worse yet, a pole.  I  have read a post over and over and over again, making adjustments each time.  I have taken risks in topic and in style, some of which have paid off and some of which have fallen incredibly flat.  I have waited eagerly to hear what others have thought about what I shared, wondering if it would resonate with anyone or not.  I have read others' writing, marveling at their word choice, their thoughtful reflections, and the sheer fluidity of their words.  I have envied others their talent and given thought to what I could do to improve.  I have spent my days thinking, planning, and rehearsing for the next post.  And every minute of it, even the stressful I-don't-know-how-to-say-what-I-want-to-say ones, have filled me with a renewed energy and sense of purpose.

"Are you a writer?"

It was such a simple question that should have had an equally simple answer:  yes or no.  Yet,  neither answer adequately described me.   Yes and no exist in a world of black and white, and as I discovered when confronted by that very simple question, I exist instead in the gray world that lies somewhere in between.

8 comments:

  1. I disagree with you (though admire your thinking). You are 100% a writer - and I hope that you will sing it from the trees! The audience does not make the writer - it's the mind and the living - which you are doing!

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    1. Thank you, Adrienne. I just hope I will keep it up even after SOLSC ends. It's been an amazing experience.

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  2. I'm with Adrienne 100%. You are a writer, because you write. It dooesn't matter the amount of words, or the number of readers - just that you have a habit of writing.

    Having said that, I have wrestled with this same issue in both my writing and my running - feeling like I needed to earn the title of "runner" or "writer". But the action is what defines you. Nothing more.

    Lastly, I must say whenever I have found the time to read your posts, they have been exceptional. ou have a brilliant mind, and a keen way of forming and communicating your message. I have enjoyed each of your many diverse posts that I have read. I may be only one reader, but I am one very happy reader. Keep on, keeping on!

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    1. Thank you, Greg, for your very kind words.

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  3. I love what Greg said - "The action is what defines you. Nothing more." Yes, you are a writer. Yes, we are writers. But I also completely understand what you are saying, because it is hard to say out loud...or even whisper to ourselves.

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    1. I am happy to know that someone else understands what I was trying to say. I think I hold writers in such high regard it seems presumptuous of me to call myself one. I suppose what it all boils down to is one's definition of "writer."

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  4. How many comments will it take to tell you that yes, you are a writer. Do you have to qualify that statement? No, just let it be. Are you a writer? Your answer is yes. Let the next statement come from the questioner. I never saw myself as a writer either, mainly because I did not write. Slice of Life came along and I joined. Yes, I am a writer now, because I write.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Elsie. It really made me think! I don't think it is a matter of how many comments I get. It is a matter of living up to my own interpretation of what it means to be a writer. I am not uncomfortable living in the gray. Once my answer would have been a resounding "no." And that would have been correct. That word no longer describes me, and for that I am thankful. Like you, I think this experience is helping me to acknowledge that I am a writer.

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