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So you call yourself a writer? -- by Allison Maruska

I've been pondering something many would say is ridiculous.

It might seem strange for a blogger to contemplate whether or not she's a writer, but bear with me here.  I'm talking about fiction writing for today's purposes, and anyway, I'm reminded of a quote from the movie Contagion: "Blogging is graffiti with punctuation." I believe that was the best part of the movie.

Ha. Moving on...

I have a rule about people who interview themselves, which is people shouldn't interview themselves because it's annoying. I'm breaking my rule so you can follow a line of logic with me. 

What do you call someone who drives?

A driver.

What do you call someone who teaches?

A teacher.

So what do you call someone who writes?

Are we talking published or unpublished?

Sound familiar?

Where's the line between hobby and career?

There seems to be a ginormous gray area between physically writing something and reaching publication, and sadly, many writers never emerge from it. 

If a writer writes and no one reads it, does that mean they're not writers?

I've written two novels in the past five months. They're short-ish YA novels with about 80,000 words between the two of them. I've spent hundreds of hours creating plot, dialogue, and revising my pretty little brains out. I've recruited friends, family, and author friends of family to read my first book. I've barely started the submission process. My heart quickened when a publisher asked to see my manuscript, and now I wait again. The reality of the publishing climate says I face scores of rejections and my books will never see the light of day, no matter how good they might be. And yet, I write on. It's become an obsession. A passion, even.

So why won't I identify myself as a writer?

If someone approached me on the street and asked me what I do, what would I say?

I'm a teacher.

Why? Partly because that's my day job, but also because of the potential embarrassment of never getting published. It seems like everyone and their uncle at one point tries to write a book. It's probably on millions of bucket lists. I feel a subtle "That's nice, Dear" from the collective unconscious when I have to explain that yes, I write, but no, there's nothing out with my name on it. 

Should my books never be published, would it be better to say I was never a writer and pretend they never happened? Pieces of my soul are in these books, and I don't mean that in a Voldemort-y kind of way. I knew what was happening on the page as I typed the words, fully aware of where the plot was going, and I still cried. I was depressed for a day in the middle of my second book because it was so emotionally draining. Pretending they didn't happen isn't an option.
So maybe the next time I meet someone and they ask me what I do, I'll have the guts to say, "I'm a teacher and a writer."

And to my fellow writers, I suggest we come out of the writing closet and claim our craft. Writing is neither practically nor emotionally easy. Claim it, and be proud of it, even if it isn't published.

I close this post with the following comic, because it's oh so very true. Here's to hoping that someday, we'll get to see our writing in a bounded book as illustrated in the fourth panel (but without the accompanying self-doubt).

Note: Since I originally published this post back in August, I'm happy to say that my first book is under contract to be published!

Posted by Allison Maruska 17 May 2014 at 00:17
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