Friday, November 19, 2010

My Name Is Paul, And I Am A Writer

With the holidays among us, I can pretty much guarantee the following:
  1. I'll be running into people I haven't seen in a while.
  2. Many will be people I do not want to see. 
  3. They will not want to see me either, but for some unknown reason, we will both pretend.
  4. They will ask me what I'm doing.
  5. I will not have an answer, or at least not the answer I want to have.
Following college, I enjoyed running into people on my old stomping ground.  I was working a great job.  My school district was one of the best.  I had a salary (one considered highly desirable for a 22 year-old), the best benefits I could ask for, and a lot of perks.

But more importantly, I felt good.  I LOVED my job.  I was good at it; my feedback and evaluations ranked me equivalent to a veteran teacher.  My colleagues and mentors praised my professionalism, creativity, and work ethic.  My relationship with the kids and community was positive.  I went back for my M.Ed.  With all that in my back pocket, I was proud when I ran into people and could fill them in on my post-college life.

Now, not so much.

Working as a part-time tutor and tirelessly searching to fix my life is hardly the conversation I want to have with old friends.  And I can't really call myself a writer, even though I write seven days a week for at least four hours. 

Or can I?

Thanks to this amazing and timely post from JM Tohline, I realize I can.  He helped me put things in perspective.  A writer, simply put, is one who writes.  That makes make me a writer.

True, I am not published.  True, I have not completed my manuscript.  True, I'm not as talented or skilled as the professionals.  But those are things that make someone an author.  And every successful, award winning, best selling author begins exactly where I am now - alone, in front of a computer (or piece of paper), writing.  I do the EXACT same job as the rest of the industry.  I've had ideas, created a story, and written words.  Therefore, I do not have to consider myself an aspiring writer.  I can simply tell people, when asked, I'm currently a writer.

Below is JM's post that helped validate my feelings.  I highly recommend his site; this guy knows his stuff!  Thanks to my virtual colleague for helping me (and many others) feel accomplished. 

Hi, My Name Is So-And-So, And I Am An Aspiring Writer

the writer of a literary work (as a book)

one who writes

All the time, I see people who say (on Twitter, on facebook, on blogs, on colorful neck tattoos, etc.) that they are "an aspiring writer."

As soon as you put words on this page, you are a writer.

It's only been over the last few months that I've been able to tell people I'm an author (actually, I'm not sure I've told anyone that yet; it's quite the habit-adjustment to change from saying "I'm a writer" to saying "I'm an author"), but I've been telling people since the age of 15 that I am a "writer."

I feel like you're selling yourself short when you call yourself an "aspiring writer." Buck up! Have some confidence!

Unless, of course, you only aspire to write. In which case...well, the road ahead is long. You better pack a lunch.

From the blog of JM Tohline


  1. Funny - your 5 things that happen around the holidays seem to be a widespread epidemic.

    Also funny - this post was inspiring to me...which is funny because you were talking about how my post was inspiring to you. Nice how that works.

  2. I like both of the posts! :) I have been thinking about the whole "what do you do" thing over the last few years and here is what I have found.

    What you do does not define who you are.

    When people ask me what I do, I usually respond with, "Well, I spend time with my family, I play disc golf, Ultimate Frisbee and hackysack and I enjoy reading. What do you do?"

    It really throws them off - especially if they represent the large data pool of people you listed above :)

    On a side note - I completely agree with the writer/aspiring writer comment - don't sell yourself short. Also, JM Tohline has an amazing blog; as do you. Keep up the good work and I will be back soon!

  3. Well written Paul. You will be a successful writer.

  4. @JM, the fact this post inspired you is a HUGE compliment to me. It is funny how that worked. Thanks again for pointing out what I needed to hear. And thank you for sharing your thoughts - and for the RT!

    @Sal, Thanks for visiting. And I like your response a lot - very insightful. In fact, I just might use that line next week. And re: "What you do does not define who you are" - so unbelievably true! Definitely doesn't hurt to remember that from time to time.

    @Bis - From your mouth (or fingers, rather) to God's ears. Thanks for the support - see you soon at the gym??? (Although, we are entering the time of year I tend to slack in that department...)

  5. I love your brutally honest post here, Paul. I really think that every artist has to hurdle over that inevitable psychological hump of accepting themselves and their profession in the dawn of their career.

    It's not easy, and in the beginning it's almost as if you'd rather poke your eye out with an icepick than be asked, "So, what do you do?" And like a latent adolescent phase, it's all about trying to "figure it out" and how you fit into it, isn't it? ;) Fun times!

    You're in good company.


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