Archive | April, 2012

Saying I’m a Writer

30 Apr

Nine years ago, I wrote one of my first published articles about a musician for a major magazine, and I was invited to the photo shoot. Sitting there, I excitedly watched the glamorous goings-on and chatted with other people on set when someone asked me what I did. I wrote the article. That the photos were being taken for. That’s why I was there. But instead of saying, “I wrote this article,” or even, “I’m a writer,” I said, “I wait tables. And I temp.”

“Why couldn’t I say, ‘I wrote the article!’?” I lamented to my therapist that week. And I knew this was something I had to work on.

Over the next several years, I worked as an administrative assistant in publishing as my day job while I continued to write on the side, and then I started my own business teaching writing classes. So I wrote, and I taught, and when people asked me what I did–or when my students asked me what I did–I could sometimes say, “I’m a writer and teacher.” Sometimes. But when I did, I felt like I was lying. So sometimes I bit my tongue and just forced myself to leave it at that. And other times I felt like I had to say, “But really I’m an administrative assistant.”

After years of living the parallel lives of assistant by day, writer and teacher by night, my careers finally collided and I got my first job as an editor. I’d been in the publishing industry for so long, but had always felt like I was on the sidelines. Instead of filing expenses reports and making copies, I’d longed to be an editor, to go to edit meetings, to sit around a table drinking coffee and discussing editorial ideas. I was finally doing it, and it felt like a dream come true.

By then, I had a different therapist, but she was well-versed in my insecurities. When I got this job, she told me I had to go places where people would ask me what I do so I could say, “I’m a writer and editor.”

A few weeks into my new job, I was at Pret on my lunch break. As I was perusing the sandwiches and trying to decide which one to buy, I ran into a woman I knew from high school and a woman I knew from college who happened to know each other and be having lunch together at Pret. They told me that they were lawyers and worked at the same firm, and asked me what I did.

“I work next door,” I said, nodding towards the publishing building. And left it at that.

“I missed my chance!” I said to my therapist that week. “‘I work next door??? That could mean anything! Doing what–washing windows?!”

Soon after, I was writing a freelance article for my favorite website one Sunday, and decided to take a break and get a cheeseburger at my favorite neighborhood burger joint. I usually chatted with the manager when I was there, and on this particular day she happened to ask me, “What do you do?”

Since I was spending the day writing an article I said, “I’m a writer,” and then, for practice, threw in, “And an editor.”

“That’s so cool!” she exclaimed. “What are you writing?”

“Today I’m writing an article for my favorite website,” I said.

“SO COOL!” she replied.

Yeah. It is, isn’t it?

So now, NINE YEARS AFTER my first published article, I can say, happily, proudly, “I’m a writer.” I can say it and not feel like I’m lying. I can say it and leave it at that. I can say it know that it’s true. That I belong–at the photo shoots, in the edit meetings–because that’s what I do. I write. I’m a writer.

Are you a writer but can’t say it? Why do you think it’s so hard to say, “I’m a writer”?