I am a writer.
(This is an attempt to claim it for my own. Or reclaim it).
Nope. I don’t think I have fully embraced it as a job description. Not even now, with three books published. When, besides looking after my children, this is ALL I do.
I remember my first business card.
After much deliberation and numerous consults (and margaritas) with my mystery writer friend (the fantastic Alison Gaylin), we decided on ‘author’. That’s what hers said. At that time she had about a gazillion books out and I had one. But still. Author.
“I am an author.”
“You’re an arthur?”
“No, an author.”
See, it just doesn’t sound right. The word sticks in my throat. It’s hard to say with clarity. And emphasis. Really someone should say it for you. Someone who can really roll their ‘r’s and has a deep velvety voice. Like, they could follow you around, as if to sprinkle rose petals in your path but actually they would just keep up this steady stream of whispering- “she’s an author”, “oh her, she’s that author”, “make way! author coming through”, “she’s an author didn’t you know?”
Plus, I’d rather be an auror.
I’ve been thinking about identity and how much it is tied up in what we do. You know, for a living. (I just barely stopped myself from making air quotes as I wrote that last word).
And how it’s even more convoluted when what we do is art and so deeply personal.
There is pride in a job well done. Even though I can’t rap worth a hill of beans, I still took pride in the records my company produced. Especially the gangsta rap ones with no social merit.
But a book. A book that I write. There is no middle man. Yes, there is my editor and my agent and my beta readers and everyone else whose job it seems to be to keep me from totally humiliating myself with poor prose, but the meat of the manuscript? That is mine. That is me. I am it.
I cannot separate myself from my work. I realize that at some point- most agree that it’s when the work is published- I have to let the work go and be free in the wide world where it will be praised and more often, criticized, and I have accepted that. Once the book is published it is not mine anymore. It is still me though.
And what happens if the work is not published?
And this happens more than you would think.
If a writer writes but the manuscripts aren’t sold, does she make a sound when she topples over in the forest?
Is she still a writer?
I know that people will say that if you write, you are a writer. And that’s true, and hurray!!!
But what I have been wondering about myself is, do I still identify as a writer if I am not regularly being published? How much of my identity-all the different bits of me that I identify as being ‘Jo’- is connected to my book release schedules?
No one wants the recognition after our deaths. I mean, we’ll take the recognition any way we can get it but we’d rather it not be in 100 years when some intrepid explorer stumbles across a trunk of manuscripts in a dusty attic.
I am the writer who was once published. The writer who will soon be published again. The writer who may never again be published?
The one thing I am reasonably certain of is that I am not an author. Or, worse luck, an auror.
On Being a Writer and Identity
I am a writer.