Last week, I had an appointment with a new eye doctor.
“Do you have an occupation?” the intake person asked. I wondered about the phrasing. Do I look like I might be retired? Or perhaps a lady who lunches? Or maybe that’s just the correct way to ask the question in an age of 7.4% unemployment.
“I am a writer,” I said, for the first time, without hesitation. It just popped out.
“Oh,” she said. Or, it might have been “Uh.”
Kate Flora always tells her students no one can decide if you’re a writer but you. Her point is, you don’t need an agent, or publisher, or reviewer, or your parents to validate your status. That comes from inside. The external validation may or may not come, but that doesn’t change who you are.
But I’ve always struggled with stating to the world, or to myself, that I’m a writer. I didn’t feel like a writer on the inside. Oh, I wrote. Except for a few crazy periods in my life, I always wrote. But I didn’t think I had a writer’s brain or a writer’s soul or a writer’s fingers dancing across the keyboard.
Now, that’s changed and I’m not sure why. It could be that I’ve removed several of the other possible identities. The day job is gone. The kids are grown. It could be the three book contract–the external validation. But I don’t think so. I spent years feeling like an English major masquerading as a tech executive while getting plenty of external validation. It could be it’s not the external validation of the contract, but the work it created. Maybe I’ve passed some magic mark on Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule and I’m actually beginning to feel the confidence that comes with a little conscious competence.
Whatever the reason, I’m happy to have moved from the category of “total fraud” to “baby writer.” So much of what I love about writing is that there is always, always something new to learn.
- That fuzziness in my left eye in the morning is the same mild astigmatism diagnosed when I was ten, and not the brain tumor I had imagined.
- It is perfectly okay to buy reading glasses 5 for $30.00 and scatter them all over the house, car, purse, etc., as I do. (I have the same strategy with pens.)
- It is Not Good For You to stare at a computer screen for a living. (It is Not Good For You to work in a coal mine, either. I’ll take the computer screen.)
- I am a writer.