I am a Writer

Hi. Barb here.

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.

Here’s what I learned at the eye doctor’s.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.)
  4. I am a writer.

About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at www.maineclambakemysteries.com
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9 Responses to I am a Writer

  1. Glad your eyes check out fine and that you’ve reached a milestone, Barb!

  2. Kat Fast says:

    Barb, you’re not a writer. You’re a very good writer.

    As a medieval history major, no matter what I did, I always felt a fraud, especially when I had a hard time spelling “medieval.” Still do at times.

    But I’m a writer at heart, and always a reader, and I enjoy reading your stories.

  3. Always such a relief not to have a brain tumor, Barb – that’s the I path I usually go down, too, lol. I love saying I’m a writer, and feeling it, too.

  4. Suzanne McGuffey says:

    Marvelous entry! And if none of us did things Not Good for [Us] how dull life would be.

  5. Pamela Oberg says:

    So glad to hear the vision issue is not a brain tumor! I’ve put off my own appointment b/c I’m quite certain this will be the year of bi-focals. (Or even tri-focals.) And I still giggle when I tell people I’m a writer, that nervous giggle that says, “Please don’t unmask me for the fraud that I am.” But I’m working on it. You are a writer, and a fabulous one at that. Thanks for this great post!

  6. Wonderfully written post. (When I get around to quoting you I’ll check with you first . . .)


  7. thelma straw says:

    This topic hits down deep with a lot of us, especially if we don’t always run like hell to the bank with that zillion dollar check! Having done a lot of other things professionally, of which I am very proud, I used to find my unshy self going all shy when asked the question… I tried out several ways to say it… ” I, uh, write…” ” Now I’m writing as my job.” ” Well, I write – books.” None got the warm hugs, just stony eyes or glances to see if I had two heads! Then, I lucked into … ” I WRITE! ( firmly!) I write mystery books ( they wouldn’t know from thrillers or espionage fiction, etc.) so I started booming out in plain English! I get a better reception and feel better about my revelation to strangers!
    Thelma in Manhattan

  8. Great post, Barb. Glad the eyes aren’t anything bad. Always a relief to learn that. 🙂 Yes, it’s hard to say, “I’m a writer.” My first book is out now for all of two weeks, and that does make it easier. I like Thelma’s wording of “I write (in my case) romantic suspense.” Think I’ll use that next time.

  9. MCWriTers says:

    Love this post. How I long for the time when scattering ‘cheaters’ around the house would do the job. Now I’m stuck behind graduated lenses that I’m always laying down at the wrong angle/place so the lenses take a terrible beating.

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