A whole week of blogs have been spawned from my growing annoyance with being grilled by elderly men at work on what I’m going to do when I graduate. When I explain that I graduated from college more than three years ago (do I really still look 21?), they inevitably ask what I’m “planning to do.” This question baffles me as I am obviously at work when they pose the question. Still, they don’t seem to trust that I’m not going to starve this winter until I explain that I also write.
Let’s be honest: my annoyance at having to consistently defend myself by claiming to be “a writer” probably stems from the fact that I don’t fully believe myself.
Remember in Shakespeare in Love when the boatman realizes it’s Will Shakespeare in his boat and starts off on a marketing pitch: “Funny, I’m a bit of a writer me self.” Most of the time, I feel like the boatman, just a nobody clamoring for recognition. (Well, I certainly don’t feel like William Shakespeare . . . . )
My apprehension about placating people by telling them that I’m a writer is hinged on the fact that I often don’t feel like a writer. If we look back on this summer it becomes obvious that I’ve spent far more time coordinating volunteers than pounding great works on the laptop keyboard. The time in the early mornings and evenings when I should be working on writing projects has instead been spent watching Netflix, reading random Yahoo! articles, keeping up with other blogs, and knitting socks.
Sure the blog gets written on a semi-regular basis and deadlines keep the articles and commentaries coming. The radio documentary’s been a slow slog, but after devoting portions of both of my most recent days off, we’re nearly finished with the second episode. But as I told a fellow writer on Sunday, I’ve been doing the bare minimum and my writing goals have been headed down the slippery slope of “tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow.”
The novel has been languishing all summer long. Last week I pulled out the novel printout, knowing that it’s getting to be time to start researching agents, writing synopses, and queries. But the preliminary cruise through agents’ websites led to a visit from the doubt demons. Is the novel really polished? Is there enough story? Is it overwritten and if so, will editing it to be more concise completely mess with my word count? And most importantly: am I brave enough for this probable path of rejection?
So lots of time I don’t feel like much of a writer. And telling you I’m a writer so I don’t have to explain why I’m not a nurse, rocket scientist, or lawyer isn’t going to make us understand each other any better. Because I am a writer. And that means I’m a work in progress. As Shakespeare reminds us in Hamlet: “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”
That Shakespeare, he had a way with words, didn’t he . . .