I am a writer.
Or, am I? I honestly don’t know. I don’t know the rules about calling yourself a writer, and my confusion is made worse by people who put restrictions on what it takes to call yourself a writer. Do you do it full time? Do you do it every day? Do you get paid for it? Do people read what you write? Do any of these things matter?
I do write every day. I write essays. I write fiction. Every. Single. Day. Sometimes I get paid for those words, sometimes they just linger on substack, waiting for people to read them, sometimes they hide on my laptop, where I am the only witness to them. I finished a novel and published it here. I write. It’s something I’m passionate about, something I feel compelled to do. It’s not my full time job, though. I barely freelance anymore. I’m not a journalist, I’m not a member of the media, I don’t have a “real” published book to my name. So, am I a writer?
What I am is a civil servant. It’s what I do, from 9–5, Monday through Friday. There have been times I’ve been tempted to leave my job, or at least take a leave of absence, and get my book finished, published, sold. Write for publications. Full time freelance. Get my name out there. But I have this mortgage, and I am the provider of health insurance in my family. I can’t just up and leave my job and pray that I make it as a writer.
So I toil away, writing in between work, writing on the weekends, at night, early in the morning. I find a way. I’m still hesitant to call myself a writer. Even though I struggle with many of the same things “real” writers do, like writer’s block, pitching, rejection, I still separate myself from people who do it for a living, as if I have not earned the right to call myself a writer.
When I’m on twitter and I talk about writing, about struggling to come up with ideas all the time, about trying to get work published, I think of myself as an imposter, like all the real writers out there are looking down on me as if I don’t belong, as if I don’t have the right to be discussing things that are in their domain. When I promote myself and my words, I feel like no one will take me seriously because this isn’t my real work. It’s just a hobby.
But it’s not. Writing is not a hobby to me. It’s what drives me. Photography is my hobby. I take pictures, I…