Sunday, November 22, 2015

Proof that I'm a Writer, or, "What Do You Do?"

You're at a party, whether casual or business, which means you're about to meet people. And when two strangers meet, the most common question after the obligatory hand-shake and name-exchange, is:

"What do you do?"

Because for some reason someone decided one day that our jobs are the one thing that defines us. Which seems cruel. What if a person has found themselves stuck in a job they hate? When you ask them, "What do you do?" and they answer, "Bank manager," or, "Human resources," or any job for that matter, you are using that information to form a picture of that person in your mind--and yet, at the same time, that person secretly loathes their job.

That's horrible.

I've always lived on the other end of the spectrum. When I am faced with that odd question, "What do you do?" I can confidently say that I am a private piano instructor, knowing that "musician" and "teacher" are two descriptive titles that I am happy with.

But here's the thing...

I've always had this secret desire to be a writer. 

Why secret? Because, if you say, "What do you do?" and I say, "I'm a writer," then you will most likely follow that up with questions of what I've written and where I've been published and what literary accolades have I collected... and I, like most writers out there, am left feeling inadequate and a failure.

Now, I've read plenty on this topic. While most of the business world sees you as A WRITER only if you have made some form of a living off it, most writers who DO make a living off it disagree. They say, if you write, then declare yourself to be A WRITER, dammit!

And I think that's great. And I do, in my mind, consider myself to be a writer--excuse me, I mean, A WRITER.

But still... that handshake-then-"What-do-you-do?" thing. The rest of the world considers this a load of bullshit, and only respects you as A WRITER if you've made a name for yourself, or, more accurately, if you've made boatloads of money. But if you're still in the process of finding your success, then they look down on you and scoff and see you as one of those creative types that will waste away in squalor for the rest of your life.

But guess what? 

Stephen King, when he published his first novel--CARRIE, ever heard of it?--was living in a trailer with a wife and two kids and not-even-barely scraping by.

J.K. Rowling wrote part of Harry Potter on a napkin... or so the story goes; but it amounts to the same thing--she was dirt poor and desperate right before creating the thing that made her richer than the Queen of England.

The stories go on and on. And I would bet that at one point in their lives, household-name writers like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling and James Patterson all dreaded that moment when they had to shake someone's hand and answer someone's question with, "I'm a writer."

This has always been a niggling insecurity of mine, and so it felt important to write about it on the day I can officially shake all those hands and say:

"I'm a writer--yes, A WRITER, here's where you can buy my stuff!"

My first publication is of my short story, "Shuffle," in the anthology IT'S ABOUT TIME, edited by Sara McBride and published by Lemur Publishing in Los Angeles.

If you haven't heard of NaNoWriMo, it's this crazy seat-of-the-pants challenge for writers all around the world to write an entire novel during the month of November. Last year was the first time I took up the challenge and actually completed it, and in mid-November I attended a writing marathon event in San Francisco. There, I won a raffle with Lemur Publishing's first anthology as the prize, and Sara McBride invited me to submit a story to the next anthology. And the rest, as they say...

IT'S ABOUT TIME is a collection of short stories from writers all across the globe that each tell a different tale about that strange man-made construct, time. And if you would like to read my story, or any of the others, get it here--the best part? You're supporting the Young Writers Program (FOR THE CHILDREN!!!) and getting great fiction at the same time!

I will be posting updates on my writing more often from here on out, but until then, I want you to imagine you're shaking my hand and asking me that horrific question:

"What do you do?"

I write. I create stories, coming-of-age and fantastic, stories that tip a book's pages up like a cup so you can drink them down to the dregs. I am part of that age-old tradition of storytelling that has been an integral part of every culture throughout history. I am... A WRITER!

Don't believe me? Just watch.

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