When my husband introduces me to people, he says: “My wife is a writer.” When our close friends talk about me, among their own circle, they say: “Our friend, Charish, is also a writer.”
For the longest time, I wasn’t aware that this was happening behind my back.
Sure, I’ve had a long journey as a person “who wrote things.” I wrote poetry back in college, I started multiple blogs regarding literature, feminism, and popular culture… Hell, I teach writing. But I was not ready to just walk up to any random person and profess, “Hey, I’m Charish, THE WRITER.”
Many people, who write things, are hesitant to call themselves writers. And all for the simple fact that many of us are not yet published. People like tangible evidence that you are who you say you are; and without it, things can get awkward. Possible follow-up questions to “I’m a writer” can be, but are not limited to:
- “What do you write?” (oh god, please don’t say Romance*)
- “Where can I find your book?”
- “How much money do you make?”
There are more questions that will stem from these questions… And the whole exchange might end up making both parties uncomfortable. My response to that? I DOESN’T GET EASIER.
If you’re anything like me, (a person who needs lots of external validation, but get’s really uncomfortable when she receives it), calling yourself a writer, or perhaps hearing someone else call you a writer, is still odd. Even if you have signed the contract for your first book. You won’t believe it the first few times it happens.
That’s why you have to practice. Published or not, stand in your bathroom mirror after you’ve brushed your teeth and repeat these words: “Hello, I’m [Insert Name] and I’m a writer.” Feel free to act out the rest of the conversation while you’re shaving or applying make up. Never mind your significant other or children, banging on the door shouting: “I need to pee!”
In other words, fake it till you make it.
But really, what exactly are you faking? If you’re working well into the night or getting up at 5 am to outline that novel, tweak those poems, or research that essay—YOU’RE A WRITER. You’re working hard and that labor makes you a writer.
Don’t be bashful about it. Be frank. What you might not realize is that many people don’t know how the publishing industry works, you could easily explain it to them. Give them some insight that goes beyond, “Where can I find your book?” Here are topics you could address for the average layperson:
- Outlining plots
- Character sketches
- Researching cadavers for my thriller
- Eavesdropping on subway conversations
- Queries (oh, there’s so much to say about that!)
- Rejection (it hurts, but you should talk about it)
Now, there’s no guarantee that the average layperson will understand the frustration you’re going through during your journey. But these topics are helpful for YOU to express yourself. They help you get in the habit of saying “Hi, I’m [Insert Name] and I’m a writer.”
*When telling people that I write Romance, it can be fun to gauge their reactions. Nervous titters to wide-eyed unabashed shock. Possible follow-up questions can be, but are not limited to:
- Do you use your real name? (No, but only because Charish Halliburton is too long)
- Do your students know? (Yeah, they do. But they’re more concerned about their grades)
- What does your family think? (They can’t wait for their signed copies)
- What does your husband think [usually accompanied with a cheeky grin]? (Look, it’s not as sexy as you think. He helps me with most of my plot holes)
- You mean like 50 Shades? (Nope.)