The overwhelming favorite answer (okay, so it was the only answer, but it was a great one) to the question, “When do you have a hard time admitting that you’re a writer?” was from Mary:
The only time I have a hard time admitting that I am a writer is when someone gives me a new journal to use. I feel particular angst if the pages aren’t lined and if I can’t find a pencil. (I would hate to besmirch a brand new journal with ink. Gasp. What if I make a mistake? What if I can’t withstand the whole 180 degrees = a straight line pressure? What if I don’t write every day? What if I do and I’m forced to reflect on the fact that I accomplished nothing today save for broiling an awesome tuna melt?)
But my favorite part of her comment was
The great thing about being a writer is that it gives you plenty of practice developing creative responses to problem situations. So you could tell people that you were gravely injured when you rescued a small child/puppy from a burning building/bear attack and your injuries forced you into very premature retirement from teaching. Your occupational therapist prescribed fine motor skill exercises and you have found that attending cocktail parties and writing scathing exposes about the attendees speeds motor skill recovery. Or, as a writer, you can speak from the heart. You could proudly tell anyone who asks that you are blessed with the opportunity to balance motherhood with entrepreneurship. Or that you are blessed with the courage to share yourself with the world. Or that writing is FUN and that you’ve arrived!
I think I’m going to use that bear attack line.
Now for my answer. Let me come clean about something. I’m a Nervous Nelly. Always have been. Probably always will be. I get hives when I ask for critique, so I wear turtlenecks. I can’t sleep the night before a job interview. In third grade, I even made myself physically ill with my nerves and had to take a little, blue pill. So, it makes sense that I was nervous when confronted with the “Are you published?” question. But, I’m not alone. Anne Lamott talks about this in her book Bird by Bird. Authors (published and otherwise) talk about it on the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators message boards. When someone says they’re a surgeon, people don’t ask if his or her surgeries have been successful. When someone says they’re a lawyer, people don’t ask if he or she wins their cases. So why do people ask if you’re published, you wonder? Good question. I think people ask a writer about being published because they don’t understand the real work that goes in to writing, published or not. Unless someone is a writer, is married to one like my poor husband, or has somehow witnessed the journey of writing, he or she just doesn’t understand the process. So, I’m going to try admitting I’m a writer when I know that dreaded p-word is coming. And I’m going to try doing it proudly. After all, anyone who writes, I mean really writes, has earned it.