Friday, September 02, 2011

Legitimacy

Although most of us don't spend our time trying to firm up our place in the line of succession to the throne, legitimacy does come up from time to time, especially as writers. I'm sure this happens in most fields as well.

I struggled for years telling people outside of the writing community that I was a writer. The first words out of their mouth were always "Are you published?" My answer being "no" or "not yet" always seemed to deflate the conversation. Their interest waned, the conversation shifted. As far as they were concerned, it was like declaring "I'm a ballerina" because I bought a tutu on eBay. At best, they'd ask what I was writing and when I'd say "romance" that was the end of it. (Another subject for another day, however.)

I think it's really hard for a writer to feel legitimate, even if everyone around them is supportive. I don't know if it is because we're all working so hard to reach the goal of publication that we won't let ourselves wear the title proudly until we do. The fact is that we are writers, we are all just in different stages of our careers. Is the chorus line member of the local community theater any less legitimate of an actor because they aren't in a Hollywood summer blockbuster? No, they're still an actor. Do they strive to get bigger and better roles? Sure. Do they have to work a day job to make ends meet? Yep. And most authors do, too - published or unpublished.

I know this was always a difficulty for me. Knowing 'the universe is unfolding the way it should' was always a frustrating mantra, even if true. At the same time, I've heard that sending positive energy out could yield positive results. Some article recommended repeating a phrase to yourself in the mirror until you could say it and really believe it. I tried saying "I am a writer. I AM a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer." It just made me feel stupid and not any more like a writer than when I started.

Then, late last year, my car died. When I bought a new one, I decided I wanted to get fun plates and splruge for a vanity tag. Being limited to 5 letters no one had used yet, I came up with "WRYTR." My mother seems to think it was fate that within a year of getting the tag, I sold my first book. I don't know that I'll go that far, but maybe this was my own version of the mirror exercise, without the layer of cheesiness. I was owning it and letting everyone left in my dust on the freeway know it. I'm not saying that my recent sale had anything to do with buying a license plate. But maybe it changed my outlook. It helped me feel more like a 'real' writer so I was more motivated somehow. Opened up my universe to possibilities or something.

I have to admit it is still a struggle. Even now, officially contracted to be published, license plate and all, it can be hard to say. I certainly feel closer. I don't know if it will be easier when I have a book physically out in stores or if it will take ten or twenty. Maybe I will always secretly feel like a fraud because of some weird insecurity that me and my therapist need to hash out. I don't know.

Do you feel like a real writer? If you're in some other industry, is there a title you're loathe to use? How do you get over it? Do we ever really get to the place where we feel like we aren't fooling ourselves and everyone else?
SP

5 comments:

Maven Linda said...

I don't think about being a writer. I just am.

And I love the new background!

Playground Monitor said...

I've always felt like a fake. And I do even more so now because I haven't been able to write much for the past two years. I keep hoping the muse will return or the creative well will fill again or whatever happens. I can't allow myself to think it will never happen because then well... it might not.

~sigh~ It's so frustrating.

Problem Child said...

I tell folks that I sold my first book just weeks after I swore I'd never set foot in a classroom of freshmen again. It was probably coincidence, but I like to think that the mind-shift helped the universe shift...

Instigator said...

I still have trouble. When people ask me what I do I have a hard time saying writer instead of office manager. Yeah, I might spend more of my time at the office than I do writing, but that's not where my heart is. Those stupid forms from school always throw me because I know they want to know where to contact me - so they want my office information - but I still put down writer anyway.

Instigator

PM's Mother said...

Why not refer to youself as an author. No, doesn't that sound more legitimate?