hello, my name is Karen and I am a writer

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I noticed you typing there….[hopeful glance]…are you a writer?

Yes, I am. [shy smile]

She fingered the book she was holding. Eat, Pray, Love. She glanced sideways at me.

Anything I might have….? Do you…?

I write online. I’m a blogger.

Oh.

That’s where the conversation usually ends.

It was about a year ago that I embarked on the end of a trail that has led me here. And here. And here. And of course here. (And soon to be two more places, eventually three.) After a month of NaNoWriMo-ing last November, all 50,000 crappy but extremely cathartic words of it, I took a deep breath and decided that I was finally going to call myself a writer. Not long after, I became one, at least began being paid to do so.

But I’ve noticed that people have some interesting views of what a “writer” is.

1. Blogging isn’t writing.

Over the past 10 days I had occasion to pass through a border guard station at the US/Canada border several times. Like, maybe 10. That’s a lot. And these people apparently don’t have much to do.

So, where’s home for you?

Pennsylvania.

What are you doing here? [emphasis on the here. Like nobody in their right mind would be here if they didn't have to be.]

I’m on vacation.

Oh? [silence for a moment. Vacation? Here??] What do you do for a living?

[I consider saying I'm a channel, but that would require explanation, far more of one than I feel like giving. So I go with the other option, just as valid.]

I’m a writer.

[perkier] Oh? What do you write?

I’m a blogger.

You get paid to do that?

[I smile and shrug a little] I know! Who knew! [p.s. I'm doing what I love and I can do it from home or, really anywhere? Can you say that?]

2. A writer must write novels.

Again with the observant seatmate:

I saw you writing…are you a…writer?

[smile, though frankly this one has gotten a bit weary by now] Yes.

I love reading!

Oh? What do you read?

Mysteries….so do you write novels?

Ah, no [too much explanation to say I am writing one, have written another]. I write online.

[flatly, clearly disappointed] Oh.

So…I figure I move in different circles from most people. Because with the people I know, if you say you’re a writer that can mean almost anything. And often does.

And I’m proud of what I do. I don’t feel a need to be apologetic about it; it’s what I do. It, like everything else, doesn’t define me as a person, but no one thing does.

So I’m a writer. And I’m a channel and an artist and a blogger and a cyclist and a mother and a lover.

And many more things.

But none of us really fit into these neat little boxes, do we? We see the boxes that we think define us, then climb in and after awhile find they don’t fit. They are too confining. Or they are the wrong shape. So we look for other boxes.

Instead of boxes, I think I am going to simply remain in the open. Less secure, maybe, but infinitely less confining.

[Another new post is up at Springing Light. Yes, this was a wonderfully creative and transforming trip; read about my experience in the forest!]

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7 Responses to “hello, my name is Karen and I am a writer”

  1. Karoliina Says:

    You know it’s interesting that in the Finnish language there isn’t really any equivalent for “writer”. I mean, you can translate that directly, but it means really just a person who’s actually writing at the very moment.

    And if you mean to say you write for a living, there’s another word, but it literally means you write books (actually the verb “to write” comes from the word “book”, too) (or vice versa, I’m not sure). So I don’t really know how Finnish writers, who don’t write books, call themselves?

    Weird.

    Karoliina

  2. whit Says:

    I get that too. I don’t call myself a blogger, although that’s how I earn my keep. It’s not a matter of being embarrassed or anything like that, it’s just that I write all sorts of things. I’ve published short-stories and I’m in talks over a screenplay. I’ve published poetry, but I don’t say I’m a poet. Why should I have to explain that every time someone asks what I do?

    I write lots of things, so I’m a writer.

  3. Cynzim Says:

    maybe i’ve shared this story before but i have to share again:

    so when i was applying to mfa program in drama & comm

    i started my statement of purpose with

    “i am writer.”

    i went on to blah blah blah after that

    and then i mailed it off.

    and later, i looked at what i wrote in the computer

    and saw that i’d left out the article.

    i really had to laugh about that one.

    “i am writer. me write. me write words. me sometimes use articles. me sometimes. not.”

    anyway

    i got accepted.

    and i learned to laugh about the whole bloomin’ thing.

    all those boxes and how i bang around in them

    and how they look after i do.

    ;-) )

    of COURSE you are a writer

    as you said

    and a zillion other wonderful things.

    my thoughts today:

    making boxes is fun.

    realizing it is a box is fun.

    changing the box is fun.

    RECYCLING the box is fun.

    making something from low-grade cardboard -

    fun.

    watch

    us

    fun.

    :-)

    cynzim

  4. superblondgirl Says:

    Whatever. In a few years, blogging will be 100% accepted as a career choice. Kind of like “reality TV star” is now a career choice, only blogging is 100% less lame. (I am so into percentages in this comment, apparently. ) Either way, I would be proud to call myself a writer instead of a “service administrator” – which, when one thinks about it, could be a euphemism for hooker (but isn’t).

  5. Steve Says:

    I came across this quote literally 1 second after reading this blog:

    “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

    –Howard Thurman

  6. lightspring Says:

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m not in the least apologetic about what I do. I am doing EXACTLY what I want to do, and see on the horizon even more fun stuff.

    It really doesn’t get better than this.

  7. AbsolutelyBananas Says:

    I love this post.

    Sometimes it’s hard to be on the forefront of a brave new world… the regular little people don’t understand. But it’s WORTH it!

 
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