One day during summer vacation, my husband, two children, and I were in a taxi. The cabbie asked my husband what he did for a living. They shared a small exchange before the cabbie looked at me in the rear-view mirror and asked me what I do for a living.
I said, “I take care of these two sugar cubes,” referring to my two children sitting on either side of me.
My 7-year-old son, Riley, looked up at me and said, “And you’re a writer.”
I chuckled, feeling embarrassed, and I mumbled something that resembled an agreement but let it go.
For the rest of the day I dwelled on the incident. This wasn’t the first time I didn’t mention writing when someone asked me about my job. I’ll say I’m a mom, or that I’m a freelance editor, or that I teach creative writing to children.
Why do I have trouble referring to myself as a writer? Is it because of the way he phrased the question? I’m certainly not making a “living” in my current status as writer. But I don’t get paid as a mother either, so that answer wasn’t appropriate in the sense of ‘making a living.’ Besides, we all know when people ask that kind of question, they’re simply asking what we do for work. I answered that I am a mother—and I didn’t mention that I’m a writer.
Here, in this blogging community, I talk about being a writer with raw honesty. And I don’t feel ashamed I’m not published save for one short story. But out there, beyond the writing world, I duck from that identity, from the dream I want to live.
What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he’s staring out of the window. ~Burton Rascoe
In my experience, non-writers rarely understand that writing in and of itself is a job—whether we’re published or not. I think, in general, non-writers have difficulty accepting writing as a job unless payment is involved. We writers probably look like spinning globes to non-writers, with the illusion of action but going nowhere fast. Non-writers generally see only the end-product. And if they ever have the opportunity to witness the sweat, blood, and tears leading up to the final creation, they still fail to appreciate the journey like another writer might.
However, I can’t blame the non-writers in my life for my own lack of pride. I should recognize the obstacle, but I should not let it stop me from defining myself.
I am disappointed I was unable to describe myself as a writer. But what opened my eyes is that my seven-year-old son calls me a writer. To him, that means something special and he’s not ashamed to announce it. So, the next time someone asks me what I do for a living I will take pride in the words, “I’m a writer,” because I’m in a crucial phase of my journey.
To be an author, I must first be a writer.