Thursday, March 15, 2007

I, uh, write fiction

Rene had an interesting post about her secret identity—being a writer—the other day. She came up with some good reasons why writers might avoid telling people about their writing. At the same time, she understands why people might not take her writing seriously, “because they have no idea how important it is to me.” She says, “I can't expect people to appreciate my being a writer until I appreciate it myself.”

I suppose I’m lucky in that I write for a living, so I have no issue with calling myself a writer. However, I do hold back about my fiction writing except to those closest to me. I remember how I hated telling people I was a waitress back in the days. I’d tell them I was in “public service.” So, when the opportunity came up to call myself anything but, I took it. Now I’m working on the novelist part.

Chrys, in her post ‘Own It,’ talks about how calling herself a writer was a freeing experience. She says, “You ARE a writer. Don't dismiss it. Don't shove it under the rug. Own it. Because it's who you are. No matter if you publish or not. No matter if no one but you ever reads your work. You. Are. A. Writer. OWN IT!” (God luv ya Chrys)

I should add that I have no problem calling myself a linker so, true to form, I’ve come up with some links to help us declare our truth!

Mark Pettus, of The Bluff, had a good post, Strike three. Are you out?, last year.

Judy Reeves says, “Until your call yourself a writer, you will never be a writer who writes—and keeps writing!” In the article, an excerpt from her book, Writing Alone, Writing Together, she says,

How do you claim yourself as writer? First, say it. “I'm a writer.” Say it out
loud. Say it to yourself in the mirror. Say it to your friends and family. Say
it to the next person you meet at a party who asks, “What do you do?” Say it to
a stranger in line at the grocery store. Say it to your mother. Mostly, say it
to yourself: “I'm a writer.”

What Makes You Think You Can Write? by Debra Koontz Traverso discusses the top ten doubts writers have.

Becoming a Writer Is Not a Choice by Beth Mende Conny talks about why we must write. (By the way, this site has more awesome articles.)

Liz Strauss, in her blog post, Are You a Writer? 7 Traits that Writers Have in Common, has a list you can check yourself against. A couple items from the list:

  • Writers often start out feeling like an imposter. The message we’re told is that the writing is strong and compelling, or well on its way, but we think the messenger could be mistaken.
  • Every writer is in a self-actualizing process. Writing is an apprenticeship. A writer is always becoming a writer.
  • Nothing in life can prepare you to be a writer, except everything in your life.

What advice would you give to writers who don’t ‘own it’ yet?


redchurch said...

I like #6 of the 7 Traits

"Every writer is in a self-actualizing process. Writing is an apprenticeship. A writer is always becoming a writer."

This is exactly how I feel. You're wrapped up in your world of writing, and you consistently write. It doesn't just have to be your novel. It can be articles or blog posts, or contracted writing for someone else. Writing is writing. The only time you're not allowed to call yourself a writer is if you don't ever actually write.

I don't think there are any people like that among us. Even if we wrote nothing else, we all have blogs.

Writing makes writers, nothing more nothing less.

Maybe some of us can't call ourselves 'professional writers' but we can call ourselves writers nonetheless. You get paid for it or you don't. Writing is writing.

People get too hung up on this stuff!

chryscat said...


I love this. Yes. I'm all about "owning it." But you took it one step further with references and books and whatnot. YAY!!!
You rock!
Who by GOD OWNS IT!!!

Bonnie said...

Great post Nienke! My advice is simply one question:

"If you don't own it, how do you become it?"

Carmi said...

Great question. And one that I grappled with for a long time. See, I come from a family that has always treated my career choice with disdain. They expected me to become some titan of business, a scientist, something that made my stomach churn.

When I made a u-turn into journalism, the looking-down-their-nose response was all I needed to know that I had let them down. I wouldn't be the big lawyer like my brother, the educator like my sister.

I pursued my career with a vengeance despite their lack of interest. Eventually, I caught the attention of media and before I knew it, I was appearing on U.S. television network news and the New York Times. I'll be presenting in San Francisco later this month, and in Shanghai in May.

They're a little sheepish these days. No matter: I've learned to look within for validation. What others say is completely irrelevant as long as you follow your own voice, pursue your own dream and fulfill your own passion.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Nienke,
Sorry I haven’t been by lately – I ate some bad food 48-72 hours ago and haven been a prisoner on the couch. Feeling a little better now though, at least enough to think somewhat rationally.
In a sense, you are talking about ones self-concept. To wit I would agree – it could really be challenging for me to write if I don’t consider myself a writer. Now, let’s consider self-efficacy – do I see myself as having the potential to be successful at it? (I suppose mt answer would be “yes” – otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it (I’m many things, but a masochist is not one of them).
Excellent Post!

John Baker said...

I don't always admit it. People tend to either a) corner you and ask questions like, where do you get your ideas from, or tell you a long anecdote that they would turn into a novel if they had the skill but they don't so why don't you (i.e. me) write it.
Or b) they hang back and nudge the people next to them, saying, see that guy over there, he's a writer.
OK, I can cope with some of the time but I do have a tendency these days to tell people I sell insurance. It just makes life simpler.

Kanani said...

Thank you for linking The Writerly Pause to your blog.

I really LOVE anyone who posts animals on their blog. This alone not only makes you wise, but also wonderful and slightly weird. All are highly admirable traits.

Very Best,
Kanani Fong

Colleen Thompson said...

I was in the closet about my writing for years, but I eventually found myself admitting it to those I knew would be supportive. There's no sense putting yourself out there to the naysayers. But over time, as I grew more confident, I did "own up," and I think it was an important precursor to selling.

Thanks for stopping by Boxing the Octopus, btw!