Challenge: Declare yourself a writer.
I think I’ve already done this. I mean, I say it in this blog, I tweet it, I Facebook it—I introduce myself as a writer. So…
How about I tell you a little story—the story of how I stopped saying, “I want to be a writer,” and began saying, “I am a writer.”
I used to think that you could only be a writer if you were published. And I thought that you were only a good writer if you were famous. Both of those, I now realize, are complete and utter crap.
You’re a writer if you write, not if you’re published. The publishing part is the goal, yes, but you have to be a writer before you can be a published writer. And just because you’re famous and have way too much cash to spend and party it up in Hollywood and New York does not mean that you are a good writer. Stephenie Meyer is not a good writer. There is nothing about her books that are good—not plot, character, setting, grammar structure, continuity, themes—She is not a good writer, but she’s famous.
Life sucks. Get over it.
So there I was constantly telling everyone that I was going to be a writer. Someday. I was going to write this amazing debut novel that would be a New York Times Bestseller, and Hollywood would make it into a movie, and there would be red carpet premieres, and I would get my picture in magazines and be on a first-name basis with celebrities and get to wear pretty designer dresses.
(First of all, if you wear a designer dress, you have to wear sexy tall heels, and I just can’t. Second, I blink in pictures. I do this strange thing where I blink or squint, and my eye always looks slanted. Then when I try to hold a smile for too long, I end up with this look where I’m sneering at the camera, and the corner of my mouth goes up oddly, and it would be even more embarrassing if I didn’t know that my kid brother has the exact same problem.
Third, Hollywood would butcher my book.)
So I was under this delusion that this is what it meant to be a writer, and all I had to do was come up with the perfect story. The trouble was that all the perfect stories were already taken.
I told people I would one day be a writer. I wrote in a journal little things that sucked, and I worked at a job that was challenging and fun at times but ultimately drained the life from me.
And then I ended up in Virginia with no job, no friends, no sense of direction, and no excuse not to write.
I started writing because I didn’t want to be the unemployed bum who watched TV all day (although I did watch all of Downton Abbey season one in one day). I started writing because I had to do something or I’d go insane. I started writing because I had to have some sort of purpose in my life.
I participated in NaNoWriMo, and it was a daunting task, but I was determined that I had to see it through. NaNoWriMo turned into a manuscript that kept growing and a trip to New York City for the Writer’s Digest Conference. Surrounded by writers, I still found the title foreign and disturbing. I told people I was writing but never that I was a writer.
And then one day at church I had three people come up to me and ask, “Are you the writer?”
Out of the blue. Never talked to them before. Never made it a big deal to that church what I was doing at my computer for six to eight hours a day.
And it just slipped out: “Yes. Yes, I’m a writer.”
After that day, I couldn’t stop saying it. I moved to New York City simply so that I could try and pursue a career as a writer. I have no idea if I will—I might crash and burn and end up working at Walmart for the rest of my life—but I’ll still be a writer.
But this challenge is what will I do today to declare myself a writer.
Hm. Well, I have a lot of job applications and emails to write. I have my resume ready to hand out. Today I will be throwing myself out there just like I did yesterday, and the day before that. And the day before that.
It takes a surprising amount of courage to send an email with a cover letter, resume, and writing sample attached to a complete stranger. I freak out before I send each one.
So that’s what I’ll be doing. If I was brave and cocky, though, I’d walk around New York City dressed like this: