About a year ago, I cleaned myself up, put on some high heels and went to a book launch. I went with a friend who knew I had aspirations to be a writer; he thought it might be interesting for me to attend a launch, see all the work that goes into publicizing a book after it is published. In attendance there were bloggers, publishers, a literary agent or two, and the author’s legion of friends, family and well-wishers.
As I was introduced around the room, invariably the question came up, “What do you do?” And I flubbed it. You know when you’ve completely flubbed something when the person you are talking to – his or her eyes start to wander within 10 seconds of you starting to speak. “I’m trying to be a writer,” I said to one. Knowing that wasn’t right, I tried again with the next person: “I’m a writer – just starting out, you know…” Oh God, with every introduction, I sank a little further into the floor. Finally, the last time I managed to choke out, “I’m a writer…” which led to the natural response, “Oh, what do you write?” My desperate response was, “I’ll write anything.”
Fast forward to last weekend. I attended a birthday party for a neighbour – there were approximately 40,000 people of all walks of life crammed into their house. I knew exactly three of those people, including my husband. A woman leaned into my ear and screamed over the music, “What do you do?” I screamed back, huge smile on my face, “I’m a WRITER!” She then followed up with “What do you write?” and I hollered back, “FICTION!” “WOW!!” she bellowed. “THAT IS SO COOL!” Her husband caught up to the conversation and I excitedly talked/yelled about all the things I am working on, the classes I’ve taken, along with amusing anecdotes about what a hermit I am. Several other people overheard (Lord knows how – the music was stupendously loud) and we all engaged in an enthusiastic, if brief, conversation about writing, favourite books and so on.
What a difference a year makes. Not just a year but a year of nonstop, concerted, focused (more or less) writing. I am living the life. I’ve written not only fiction but have posted close to 90 blog posts on WordPress. I have done a bit of freelance editing. And, I’ve come to realize that I don’t need to whisper about being a writer because I’m not a “published author.” I’ve had one short story published in this year, and there’s more where that came from…I am a writer, by God. There is determination and confidence. I have a sense of purpose. I show my work to total strangers now. Braver still, I show my work to my family and my in-laws.
That is not to say that I don’t still have paralyzing moments of self doubt; I totally do. I recently trashed 230 pages of a first novel attempt because it was boring me to tears – Jeez, if it bored me to tears, it would most likely put anyone else who read it in a coma – but I now realize that this is not unusual, I am not a freak. The past is littered with the full trashcans of writers pitching stuff – going back to quill and parchment days. Maybe even cave dwellers threw sabretooth tiger dung on some of their scratchings…
I’ve come a long way. I have a long way to go. At least now, I know where I’m going which is a huge improvement from last year!