It's inevitable, we all have that terrible moment when someone asks us, "so, what do you do?" and new writers have this ten second, epic inner struggle. Do I tell them I'm a writer? Do I give them details about my boring day job? Which will make me feel worse?
And when you do admit to being a writer, will you get that familiar rush of humiliation and self-doubt? Will you feel like a big fat faker? Because the conversation usually heads downhill after that, doesn't it? Either they ask you what your story is about, which I've already covered here, or they'll ask, "So what books have you written? Anything I've heard of?" and you have to swallow your pride and admit that you don't have anything published yet. Or no, they probably haven't heard of you. It's almost like some form of punishment for having had the audacity to call yourself a writer.
It doesn't seem to matter how many clever quotes you read (You're a writer if you write!) because these awkward conversations inevitably end up stripping away even the smallest shreds of confidence you may have acquired from positive thinking. Any foolish pride you may have dared take in your occupation soon shrivels and shrinks like a punctured party balloon.
I used to think it would be better once I had an agent. That this was the golden ticket to really feeling like a writer. Don't get me wrong, signing on the dotted line feels really good, but it doesn't chase away the self- doubt like I dreamed it would. I suppose I imagined big oak desks and jackets with elbow patches, maybe smoking a pipe and discussing the horrors of comma splices with other big time writers.
I'm sorry to report that isn't the case. The other day I literally sat in the chiropractor office staring at the forms I had to fill out, at the blank spot that says "occupation" for about five full minutes. I feel sure the desk clerk thought I was an imbecile.
I mean, just because I cook dinner every night doesn't make me a chef, even though I make super delicious macaroni and cheese (I even put hot dogs in it, it's intense). The difference is, I have no intention of getting a red seal and becoming a chef. The thing about being a writer is there's no certification. Sure, you can get all kinds of fancy diplomas for writing courses, but they don't mean jack. You don't need qualifications. In a way it's totally awesome. It can also feel a bit confusing at times.
So when do we reach this authorial Nirvana? When do we bask in the glowing knowledge that we ARE indeed writers? When can I buy that coat with the elbow patches? Maybe it's when you have books on the shelves. Maybe it's when you have book signings and there's an actual LINE waiting for you. Maybe it's when you get your first piece of outraged hate mail. THEN you'll have made it....
Or maybe you ARE a writer when you write. I honestly don't know. Maybe there will come a day when I can say it without a stab of guilt. Am I a writer until I publish a book and then I become an "author"? Is that stage two? Is it all in my mind? Am I going mad?
Okay that last one is a legitimate possibility.
What about you, do you call yourself a writer? Do you have trouble admitting it?