I am a writer, neither am I*

Some time in my distant past I had set a standard for daring to call myself a writer. (I’ve always thought that the title “writer” was an ambiguous thing. If you wrote anything at all — technical manuals, fiction, magazine articles, grocery lists — you were a writer. Plain and simple. Yet if you called yourself a writer, you were being pretentious. Better to let others call you a writer; you needed to be busy just writing.)

So here was my standard: I would either need to have published 100 feature articles in magazines and newspapers, or I would need to have published ten short stories, or I could have one novel published. Only then would I allow myself to call myself a writer.

I haven’t reached 100 articles yet, and I probably won’t. My count is somewhere in the sixties, depending on whether you include reprints (authorized and unauthorized). I’ve lost interest in feature writing, though occasional ideas come to mind. As for the novel, if you’ve read this blog long enough you know where that ambition stands. My manuscript is out there in submission limbo, searching for representation, with a few hopeful prospects but dozens more outright rejections and the more painful no-response-at-all rejections.

But, mirabile dictu, I have recently met my short story standard. My tenth story has been published. You can find a link for it in My Stories over in the sidebar.

Being an “official” writer means little, of course. I can’t turn the cachet into a free glass of iced tea or an invitation to speak before a thoughtful crowd. I think I’ve earned all of $10 dollars from my fiction efforts over the years. (Even my feature writing work over more than twenty years never netted me more than pocket money in the big scheme of things.) The words still don’t write themselves. No one is clamoring for my fiction yet. I’m not going to be putting “writer” after my name on my business cards. (I don’t even have business cards.)

But I do feel something like accomplishment. I set myself a goal and then achieved it, and it has given me a foundation for building even taller, much taller I hope. I can point with pride to every single one of my published stories, and I continue to write, buoyed by my modest list of credentials. In quiet moments, when I’m all alone and no one is listening, I whisper the word “writer” and taste it on my tongue. I savor it, but I’m not going to over indulge. I’ll put it in my pocket and just keep on working.

So now I can call myself a writer, but I really should get busy with the actual writing and let others call me names.

*   *   *

*I have stolen this title from Tom Vowler’s late, lamented blog How to Write a Novel. Order his prize-winning collection of short stories, The Method, and give it a read!

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Explore posts in the same categories: Humble efforts, Rants and ruminations

One Comment on “I am a writer, neither am I*”

  1. rachel Says:

    I’ll give you a free glass of iced tea! (unsweetened)


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