It took me many years to be able to admit I’m a writer. I used to think that since I wasn’t published, it meant I wasn’t one. I was just someone who wrote. And not very well at that.
Then I took my first college creative writing class and I realized, yes, I am a writer. Even if I’m not published. Even if I’m not particularly good at it. Even if I’m the only person who ever reads my work.
So I started admitting to people that I’m a writer.
And it bit me in the ass.
First of all, there’s the doubters. I’ve had someone say, because I’m not published, “Oh, she writes. But she’s not a writer.” So long as you’re getting your words down–even if it’s by dipping your quill in baby blood and writing on goat hide–you’re a writer.
Second, there’s the lengthy discussion of my work. The first question they’ll ask is what I write.
At their blank look, I suppress an eye roll and expound: “Young adult fantasy. It’s for teens.”
Then I have to endure the snide remarks. “Oh, ’cause that’s never been done before.” Or more often just the, “Oh.” I guess they were hoping I was writing the next Great American Novel?
Next, they ask what my book is about, which is a question I loathe because I can’t be as vague as with the first.
“Oh, you know. Lots of magic. Lots of gore.”
If they’re still with me, often not, they’ll ask the dreaded, “So when are you going to be published?”
Yes, Joey. When are you going to be published?
WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO BE PUBLISHED, JOEY?
That parasitic question has burrowed in my head and died and now it’s just festering and oozing and I just can’t. Every time I’m asked that, it’s like having my heart ripped out.
The people who ask this don’t realize how difficult it is to get traditionally published. They don’t know how much competition there is. Writing a single draft isn’t enough. You can’t just submit it after you type, “The End.” There’s revising and editing and getting feedback and then revising and editing and MORE feedback and then scrapping the entire novel and starting from scratch and. It. Does. Not. End. They think it’s an amazing feat just to have written a book. But when you’re serious about publishing, getting the first draft is the easy part, isn’t it?
What’s more infuriating is that most of them don’t ask because they actually want to read it. No, most of the people I know would probably purchase a copy of the book (in paperback, I’m guessing) and never read it. Or they expect a signed copy to be given to them.
They ask me because of the money. Because all authors become New York Time’s Bestsellers. Because all authors have their books adapted to movies. The most interest my family shows concerning my writing: “When are you going to get published so I can quit my job?”
That question makes my chest tighten, forms a knot in my stomach. I wrote my first manuscript over three years ago and I’m still not published. Granted, I’m not actively seeking representation at the moment. But I still feel like a miserable failure.
Pressuring me to get published does not motivate me. It only makes me doubt myself. I start wondering if I’ll ever be a successful writer, and then I begin spiraling into a writing slump that I have to dig myself out of.
What are your thoughts? Do you proudly wave your writer flag? Or are you more hesitant to speak about it?