I was at a party recently, chatting with a man about his career and how he came to be where he’s at now. For years, he’d had an office job, travelling throughout New South Wales, training newbies in his field. He hated it. In his spare time, he took photos, and a photographer-friend had asked him to assist with a wedding he was shooting. After this experience, and knowing this is where he found happiness, he said goodbye to the office and started his own photography business, which he still operates, some 30+ years later. I was inspired by his story. His courage to follow his true love and stick with it. It gave me hope that my decision to do the same with my writing, was not a foolish one.
Reflecting on our conversation, I wondered how long it was before he knew, in his gut, ‘This is what I do now. I’m a photographer.’
I’m forever at war with myself about what I do for a living. It was easy when I had a ‘real’ job. A job that had an employee status, payroll number, an official badge, labelled with my name, school emblem, and worn with pride. But now, coming into my third year of flying solo, I’m still questioning… am I a writer? What do I do?
And then these questions lead to more questions (I never give the brain a break) such as, what makes a ‘real’ writer? Is it simply that we write every day? Is it how much money we make from our writing? Is it how many books we have published? How many awards we’ve won? Is it how many associations we’re part of? Is it how long we’ve been writing for? Is it because this is all we do?
And then those questions lead to…
Well, I’ve only been in the game a couple of years, can I call myself a writer? Next to no one has ever heard of me, don’t you have to be all JK Rowling to make that claim? I’ve published one book, does that even count? And it’s self-published. Does this mean, I’m disqualified? I don’t write every single day, I mustn’t be ridgy-didge, right? Or, if I write five days out of seven, have the weekend off, like a typical occupation, then that’s okay?
Please, tell me I’m not the only one who questions their questions! 🙂
So, to answer my many musings, in a not-so-round-nutshell, I put myself in the position of the man I spoke to at the party. What would I say to a person who asks what I do?
After much deliberation, of course, this would be (roughly) my response:
For eight years, I was a school teacher, but left the profession six years ago after I had my first child. I now write stories and songs for young children and established my own business, which publishes my picture book series and produces live performances based on my stories and songs. I love creating, and I love that I can have a job that works around family. It’s still in its early days, and is quite challenging, but I hope in 30 years, I will still be here, doing what I love for a living … Oh! And I even have my own REAL name badge, worn with pride! 🙂
I think my gut has spoken (and not about food, for a change!).
How about you? What do you do?
2 thoughts on “You Call Yourself a Writer?”
You’re not alone, Renee. It was a good many years and multiple publications before I felt I could legitimately call myself a children’s author, although I had no problem telling people I was a journalist or editor (my official part-time job). Interestingly, when my children were in primary school, if anyone asked if their mum worked the response was, ‘No, she just stays home and writes stories.’
Thank you for sharing your experience, Teena. Isn’t it a strange apprehension? Oh, and how I can relate! My eldest is five years old, and tells much the same story to his school friends and teacher! 🙂