Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Velveteen Writer

If you ask me what I do, I will tell you I am a writer. I will not hesitate when I say this, or feel it is only a partial truth. It is not an effort to make myself sound more interesting or sexier or more like someone you ought to invite to your party. In my heart, in my bones, in my soul, I am a writer.

This has nothing to do with the amount of money I've made from my writing, the number of sales I have to my credit, or the response my manuscript has received from readers or agents. Knowing that I am a writer has everything to do with the fact that writing is what I do. It is my avocation and vocation, united. This is who I am.


Tomorrow I will be guest lecturing in a course on King Arthur in Literature, taught by the woman who was my dissertation advisor. She had her students read some excerpts from Linger, and asked me to come in and speak because she thought it would be interesting for the students to get the chance to talk to a "real writer" about her work.

One of the professors in the English Department at Stony Brook emailed me yesterday, about a student who is coming back for a Master's. She asked me if she could put him in touch with me - she thinks his fiction is good, but that he would benefit from contact with "a real writer."

Suddenly, I began to wonder if I am real enough. Will the students in Becky's class be disappointed that the excerpts they were assigned were from a work in progress? (and fuck, even though I reread the manuscript eleventy billion times, there is a very professional looking typo on p. 23.) I've made two sales, and I'm so proud of them, but is two enough to be "real" to someone else? Someone who doesn't know how many hours a day I sit in front of a notebook, or how many laps I wander around the lake in search of the next plot point, or the fact that if you cut me open, I will bleed story?

The only conclusion I could come to is that it doesn't matter, as long as I am real enough for myself. There will always be people that I won't be real enough for. I don't know yet what my career will look like, but I know that there will be something in it that people will be able to point to as a weakness, a sign that I wasn't good enough, or serious enough, or whatever enough to be a real writer.

But I know that I am.


  1. Thank you for the reminder.

    Even with no sales, I am still a "real" writer: I put words on the page in order to tell a story; whether it is fiction or non-fiction is unimportant, save that it is what I do.

    Must remember that.

  2. Oh, honey, you're a real writer. Don't worry about that ;)

  3. Thanks, Monica - I think I'm not worried any more so much as I needed to process through things. Regardless, I love your kind words.

    Jannalou - Of course you are a writer. Good luck.