Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Will the Real Writers Please Stand Up?

Writerly types, do you ever feel like frauds? Like calling yourself "a writer" is like one big silly joke?


It happens even when I write it in an email to my CPs. (You know, the people who actually believe in my work?) EVERY SINGLE TIME I write something about any aspect of getting an agent, I scoff at myself.


Anyone else mentally following up their declarations that they dream of getting published with a mental eyeroll and private,  "Yeah. Like that's ever gonna happen?"



It would be awesome if the real writers were actually orange. Then I would know to take up knitting or something.


I have an idea of what would make me feel like A Real Writer - someone whose work has been accepted as "good stuff" by some sort of pro.


But I really can't visualize it. I mean, I know what emails requesting The Call From an Agent say, because I've read about them...I just seriously am not capable of taking the mental leap of imagining one in MY inbox.


Same with a printed book with my name on the cover. Or, heck, even a digital one.
 (In fact, on the cover I mocked up for One, you'll notice my name isn't on there at all. I literally couldn't make my fingers put it on there and post it on this site. It felt...weird. Presumptuous, maybe.)


I don't know what would make me consider myself "A Real Writer."


I do know that some things make me feel more like a writer, sometimes. Like when I read Kathryn Stockett's story, where she reports feeling "truly neurotic" after 45 rejections. The fact that I've had over 160 (granted, on 2 MSs) and have not yet checked into the looney bin makes me feel a bit more...in the game. Or when people express shock that Ms. Stockett worked on her manuscript while in labor. I didn't quite do that, but I did send a submission from my hospital bed about 15 hours after my daughter was born last week. 


So...if one works on her writing while in the hospital, does that make her a real writer? And, if so...um...congratulations to me??? Kathryn Stockett club? (And where's my movie deal???)


Trouble is, one of a writer's greatest enemies is...feeling like a fraud. A not-a-writer. A poser. This reluctance to say "I'm a writer" with any seriousness deep down inside, or to even say it at all, can poison our knowledge from that other deep-down-inside  spot that our stuff is any good, even our fundamental belief in our work, or in our core story. 


Even though I know that...I still feel like a fraud most of the time. Is it because I don't have an agent? Maybe. Maybe I'll only feel "legit" when I get a book deal, indie or otherwise. It's a curvy, bumpy road, and I don't know what lies around the bend. I have no doubt that writing is something I *need* to do because it's an essential part of what makes me ME...but I'm still WAY more inclined to shrug and say, "yeah, I write things" in a dismissive tone than to smile brightly, look at someone right in the eyes, and say, "I'm a writer." 


So, what about you? Do any of you actually feel like A Real Writer? Does it have anything to do with what you tell people, or do you say you're a writer but do an inner eye roll?



30 comments:

  1. Oh man, do I ever feel like a fraud. I also majored in science in college, so I never really had to write anything except lab reports. So now that I'm doing it all the time, it's hard to identify myself as "a writer".

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    1. I know what you mean. Writing is SO NOT related to my day job at all...except very tangentially. Certainly not fiction. And Add on top of that what I see is a rampant disrespect for YA fiction...yeah.

      Keep on keepin' on, Steph. You're doing awesome.

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  2. I have those moments of doubt, too. In fact, I avoid telling anyone that I'm a writer unless I have to, most often because they've found my blog, Twitter, and etc. But deep down, I know I'm a writer, since I can't go a day without twisting plot lines here and there, brainstorming character traits, and just planning for my novel(s) in general. But yeah, getting an agent or better yet, a publisher, would certainly help with the lack of confidence. :/

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    1. EXACTLY. Because they find the blog. Such a weird "place" to be.

      I know I'm a writer because I start getting MEAN as all get-out when I don't. But your affirmation seems much more positive. :)

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  3. And have I told you you're amazing? Because you are, really.

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    1. *blushes* Thanks, honey. So are you. It's not like it's easy to fit writing in with all the stuff you're dealing with now either. :)

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  4. I never told anyone I was a writer, or about my dreams of getting published. I was so scared they'd laugh at me for even daring to think such a thing. And I certainly never called myself 'a writer'. Even to myself, I'd think 'I WANT to be a writer.' And yet I WAS one, even before I sold a book, because I WROTE. And surely that is all you need to do to call yourself a 'writer'?

    An artist calls themselves an artist whatever stage of their career they're at. Same with musicians. So I wonder why we writers feel so differently?

    This is such an interesting post, Leigh Ann - thank you!

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    1. You know? It gives me a lot of hope that you're realizing that in retrospect. Makes me think that maybe one day, I'll be in exactly the same place.

      I wonder why it's different, too. I think it's because the business is SO tough to break into...chances are, most of us will never "make it," at least not in the traditional sense. Hard to call ourselves something that we need so many other people, and so much luck, to be seen as.

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  5. Writers write. Authors are published. So as long as I am writing I consider myself a writer. Iy is the title of author that I don't apply to myself yet.

    So you are a writer :)

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    1. Yes. Okay. *deep breath* Still, it sounds like a job title, you know? But just because people expect that "writer" means "I have a shiny hardback" doesn't have to make it so. :D

      Great to "meet" you! <3

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  6. All the time Lady - all the time. The effect of having a hardback with my name on it in my hot sticky paw wore off in nanoseconds and then I got the "Oh Gods, someone is going to find out and THEN I am in huge trouble" feeling.

    I blogged about this but people who know said if you write, you're a writer (and if other people like your writing you're a good writer) ... so let's all just take a deep breath and say it together ... 1 ..2 ..3 I'M A WRITER!

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    1. WOW. Nanoseconds? Freakily, I Can see that too. Urgh.

      Here's what made me tear up: "If other people like your writing, your'e a good writer." Because I guess if we have loving CPs, that means we have at least *that* validation, right? And I do. A whole big fabulous crew of 'em.

      Great to "meet" you!

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  7. If I even mention that I write, I usually get an expectant look, and then I quickly follow up with, "But I'm not published...."

    I've only really started calling myself a writer in the last 6 months. Before that, I never wanted anyone to know that I was trying to get published, because it would be SO EMBARASSING if I failed. *snort* And NOW I've reached the point of thinking I've failed, but it's MORE EMBARASSING for people to think I didn't even try. Does that make sense at all?

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    1. YES. The "I'm not published" instantly changes things for people. So crazy.

      And, yeah. Failing is definitely embarrassing on some level, I agree. But remember, Megan - you FINISHED A BOOK. Most people fail to get past the first 50 pages. (and, the book is BEAUTIFUL.) So, on a big level, you didn't fail.

      And I'm glad you weren't too embarrassed to send it to me. <3

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  8. Oh, I feel like the biggest fraud ALL the time. The only time I call myself a writer is online with you guys. In real life, I say that I write...but I don't give myself the title of "writer". I think, at least for me, it's a self defense mechanism. Like, if I ever don't get an agent or sell a book, I can be like "Yeah, I told you so. I didn't think it would happen anyway, whatever." You know, rather than everyone know that my hopes and dreams are crushed to dust and feel like the biggest failure on the planet. :) It's hard being on this side of things when you identify with your writing so much.

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  9. What Krista said. (Great name, by the way:) )

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  10. Since I've only been writing for about a year, I don't feel like I AM a writer yet... even though, as has been mentioned, people DO like my stories so far. I tell people "I'm writing a book," but I rarely say, "I'm a writer." It still feels weird.
    Though on another level, I feel like that should be my new mantra. If I wake up every morning and say, "I am a writer; today I will write," then maybe I'll start to feel like it's real... self fulfilling prophecy and all that... plus I'd hopefully do less "social networking" and get more real writing done :-)

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  11. My problem is sometimes I know I'm good and other times I know I stink. Rejection hurts and makes me mad and I've been at this writing game for over 10 years. I tell people I write because I'm proud of the fact that I've written six unpublished novels (85% of them totally suck). Other times I'm reluctant because I don't want people to think I think I'm great stuff. Weird. Does that make any sense?
    But the hardest thing for me is seeing other writers become successful in less time, with less quality writing. Like they woke up one day, decided they were a writer, and six months later land an agent and a publisher. SO frustrating!!!!

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    1. YUP. Everything but the "for ten years" thing.\

      I think I don't want people to think I think I'm great stuff because I Just. Don't. Know. I mean, of course my CPs give my stuff the thumbs up, otherwise I'd never query it. But beyond that...no clue.

      And, yes. The "less quality writing" part. FOR SURE.

      Great to see you commenting! <3

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  12. I am a massive fraud, but it's for my own sanity. I didn't even tell my own mother I'd written a book until it was about to go in the drawer, and I still haven't let her read it. (BTW, that's my mom who was stalking Peni's picture last week on FB :) And now, every time she asks how writing is going, I find myself repeating, "The odds of getting published are astronomical" and "just because an agent asked to see it doesn't mean anything will happen." I feel like I have to convince people that I'm not silly enough to believe this will go anywhere, even though I want that more than anything.

    I also feel like a fraud because I majored in freaking English. Shouldn't that alone make me smart enough to rise above the slush? Maybe that's being a little hard on myself, but my long-winded point is that I feel you, girl!

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    1. G, "for my own sanity" is the PERFECT way to put it. Because otherwise, how could we spend hours upon hours doing it, if there wasn't the sliver of hope that it would go somewhere? Even when I talk to my husband about it, though, there's this sense of, "oh, I love my CPs, it's so fun," instead of "OMG I WILL DIE OF DISAPPOINTMENT IF THIS NEVER PANS OUT."

      (Also - LOVE your mom. LOVE HER.)

      And, G, you are too hard on yourself. But that's nothing new. <3

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  13. Now, in a more elegant form than my reply above...

    I think sometimes I do feel stupid for pursuing this dream, but I don't think I've seriously turned my emotions back in on myself and felt bad about my writing. More often, I get frustrated with people who haven't been at it and for as long as I have and aren't as good as I am, and I take my egorage out on published books. (Which is probably why I don't like 90% of YA novels.)

    It's not a good thing for me to do, but I think in some ways I prefer that to taking it out on myself. I wouldn't last long if I let myself chip away at my own self-confidence every time something frustrating happened.

    Still...chipping away at the self-confidence thing...I think that humbles writers. And without that, we'd all be self-serving egotists like me. >.<

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    1. OMG I was just going to do a post on humility. Or thinking of it, rather. Trying not to piss people off ALL the time. :/

      Yes. Humility is important. I assume that everything I write sucks until you guys say otherwise. Then it gets upgraded to, "this might suck little enough to query."

      Either that, or you guys are all full of it. Or maybe you don't really exist at all. Oh, hell. I've read ALEX too many times.

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  14. Here to say - Happy Baby Naming! Late to the party, but Penina is beautiful name. The rabbi at my hometown shul (has 4 kids) has a daughter named Penina. :) I also like that is far, far away from Nesyah. Mazel Tov!!!

    I think being a real writer means you write, whether it is down on paper or in your head. I know a published author who used to write constantly, didn't write for 10 years and then picked up the pen again. It makes me grumble that so-so writing gets picked up within a day, but I've honestly come to realize it is the marketing/hook that does those people in. I'm a real writer. I write in my head, sometimes on paper, usually on the margins of my class notes... I've been making up stories since I was 5. I'm currently an intern at a non-profit that promotes storytelling - something that attracted me to my boss was that I was a writer - that I was a creative writing major. An agent I spoke with on the phone thought my internship was SO COOL - that I was involved in writing in other ways than just writing my novel. I am not a writer because I am published (unless you count my Hebrew poems in 4th grade or the poetry contest I won in the 6th grade or the short story contest I won in 10th grade)...I am a writer because I love stories. I am constantly thinking about stories. I took a year off of writing last year and you know what...I'm still a writer.

    I also believe that everyone's process is different. I always TOLD people I wrote, but I didn't really ever FINISH anything until college. That was when i sat down and wrote 2 novels. One was bad. The other is the one I am revising/hoping to do something with it. I've been a "writer" since I was 7 years old -- I used to run around the house telling people I was going to grow up to be JK Rowling (um.......the theme park has not yet come in, sorry). I am a writer because I love to write.

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  15. Y'know... this is a good post. I think the day I declared to myself that writing was my real job, despite the fact that I've been paid less than $100 for every word I've ever written, I began to think of myself as a writer. It's been... nice. No uncertainty. Granted, I'm still full-time at my day job... but it's only my day job now, not my job. :)

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  16. This is a great post and echoes something I was thinking about the other day.

    I am a writer because I write. And because I've been "paid" to do so in non-fiction venues, I don't feel queasy at the thought of this. I mean...I have to tell the IRS every year that's I'm a writer! :-)

    But I don't think I could call myself an author until I have a book on the shelves. I have no idea where that division comes from. What deeply held belief makes me shy away from that word like it's something barbed that I just don't deserve to go near (yet).

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  17. I love this post and everyone's comments! I think all of us writer-types have been there- trying to explain that we are writers when someone asks, "What do you do?" But I have to say that I think the worst part of telling others that I'm a writer is the dreaded "Are you published?" question. That's when I tend to go into some long-winded reply, making up all kinds of stuff. I even say that I'm not sure I want to publish my book. But who am I kidding- right? Of course I want to publish! I agree with Amanda- maybe it's a defense mechanism. I won't be let down if I don't get my hopes up.

    We need to change our thinking- believe in ourselves and others will believe us!

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  18. I guess I always feel like a writer, and I've always considered myself one, too. maybe not a serious writer, not until recently when I decided I'd try to get published. what I do have a hard time picturing is being an author. I don't know if I'm good enough or if my ideas are good enough or if what I've written is right for the market or insert reason #4-100000000. and I think that won't ever go away...

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