Being a writer feels silly sometimes. "Oh what do you do?"
"I'm...well, I'm a...writer," I reply, dragging out the sentence as though it'll lessen the blow.
Claiming the title "writer" creates a couple of responses: affirmation—in the wow-good-for-you kind of way, usually from a fellow creator who understands pouring hours over a project that's borderline significant to the world, but incredibly significant to you—and rejection—in the um-yeah-cool kind of way, usually from a rational, type-A human who understands reality more than creativity, and recognizes writing is synonymous with unemployed.
I graduated college almost a year ago (WHAT the), and haven't claimed the title "writer" yet. Mostly because it's always been a hobby, it's always been personal, it's always been second to my "actual" job.
As the year has (very quickly) progressed, countless people have asked that jabbing, invading question: "So what do you do?"
I can never respond well because there are too many things I'm doing, can't you tell. There isn't just one job. No, I haven't started my career. No, I don't even know what my career is yet.
I've worked for a small magazine the last 8 months and still can't say I'm a writer. Crazy, right?
That being said, it's been a strangely good month in my little world of writing. And an even better week.
A couple posts ago, I mentioned how a stranger and I struck up a conversation about writing in a coffee shop. And I said don't judge me, it was inspiring.
He was working on his memoir and l said, "If you're writing a memoir, you must have a good story to tell!" He kind of laughed it off, but I decided to ask him what I wanted anyway: "Soooo...are you going to let me read some of it?"
Again, he recoiled a bit, but about ten minutes later he leaned over, asking if I wanted to look at precisely two pages. I lit up, exclaiming yes yes yes, and thanked him—I know how difficult sharing something you've written is...especially when it's a personal excerpt from your life, and especially because I was a complete stranger.
After I finished reading, we talked about what good writing entails, and who has influenced us. I spoke highly of William Zinsser, whose book On Writing Well fine-tuned my writing unlike anything else. We talked about revising and how important it is, and how much it sucks.
As the conversation slowed we went back to our individual projects, and before he left he thanked me several times for talking with him. He said something clicked and he was going to work, work, work. We exchanged emails, and that was that.
I drove home and was beside myself. In those moments of talking, reading, and writing about writing, I felt more in my element than ever. Like something clicked for me too, and I wasn't just this and this and then also kind of a writer.
No–I was a writer. I am a writer.
In the week following that encounter, I've had multiple, random affirmations regarding writing. Some in person, some over text message, and some through Facebook messages. But they've all been intentional, direct encouragements that say Hey. Alyssa. Do you get it yet? Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep. Writing.
And so I have been. I've been writing a lot—for myself mostly, but if you've noticed I've also blogged once a week for three weeks. Huge accomplishment people, huge accomplishment.
This post is long, and I still have something cool to share, but I will save it for next time. Stay tuned.
And as always, thank you to those who have constantly been voices of encouragement to the part of myself I am very happily accepting:
"Oh, what do you do?"
I'm a writer. What do you do?