Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'"
--From Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven
Go with us here. It's Halloween. We're also participating in Juliana Brandt's Warm Fuzzies Blogfest. http://julianalbrandt.com/2011/10/warm-fuzzies-blogfest/ . Although we had our responses posted in a sidebar by last Friday as requested, that didn't give any of you the opportunity to weigh in with any of your comments. So today we are transitioning those responses out of sidebar-land and into a real post. A real post that is also a multi-post as the Swaggers weigh in to the question for the first week: How do you broach the subject of being a writer to other people who aren't authors?
Before we list the Swaggers responses, at least one of us has had the pleasure of visiting every single blog participating in the Warm Fuzzies Blogfest. This Swagger is blown away by the creativity and energy of these fellow bloggers. Obviously, these blogs are the brain children of writers. Not New York Times best-selling authors, but writers who feel the calling of language and yearn to create something beautiful with it. And do.
And by far the majority opinion of the participants in this blogfest seems to be one of consternation over broaching the subject. (And that includes some Swaggers too.) Why? Because these writers seem to be empowering others to determine their self worth. Now here we go, trying to tie in the above quote to the issue at hand in the spirit of Halloween. Isn't looking to others to validate what we do, sort of like looking to the raven for wisdom?
If we can't summon that sure-fire belief from within, won't we just drive ourselves mad trying to find approval from others?
And now, rightly or wrongly, here's how the Swaggers deal with the situation.
Kim: I do a lot of volunteer work as a Girl Scout leader and service unit director. Sometimes that seems easier for people to understand. If I'm talking to someone who I think won't approve of a "writer" who doesn't have a best-seller on the shelves, I revert to my glut of volunteer work. Everyone gets that!
Melissa: I am very proud to call myself a writer/author and love to share that fact with others. I was a closet writer for many years so sharing and owning my writing title now is very important to me. The best response I've heard from telling others that I am a writer is, "Me too!" There are SO many of us out there! It seems to be one of those things that people don't openly admit unless someone else does - which I do - so it is neat to see others open up.
Jon: I gave up a long time ago really worrying about people’s reaction when I told them I was a writer. I used to freak out answering that question, because other than a few small things, I didn't have any publishing credits and the next question from them was inevitably, “Oh, what have you written that I may have read?” So now when people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a writer and when they ask what I write, I generally respond by saying, “Words!” Then I just go with the flow of the conversation.
Juliet: Though I have published articles, short stories and a picture book, I still feel a twinge of self-doubt when I call myself a writer. And I think there is an additional er, um moment when I explain that I write for kids. But there isn't much any of us can do to combat people's generalizations or assumptions about what it means to be a writer - or a chef - or a supermodel, etc. Each identifier is accompanied by some stereotype that can only be dissolved through deeper associations. So mostly, I just go with supermodel instead of writer...
Regina: "So do you do anything outside of the home?"
"Actually, I'm a writer."
"Do you have a book?"
"Well, I have some manuscripts I'm working on and I have a poem published in a children's book."
"Oh, so you write for kids?"
"So that's not that big of stretch from raising kids, huh? Not rocket science, ya know."
This conversation ended as I excused myself to the open bar at my husband's holiday work party.
Kathy: I rarely offer the title Writer unless asked, "What do you do?" because I always get that same question, "What have you published?" Earlier this month a friend in the publishing business introduced me to a charming woman. "Kathy's a writer," he said.
"Oh that's wonderful! What books have you published?"
"None have been published, but I've written many."
Egg on both faces, yes. But damn it! I AM a writer & I don't care who knows it!
Graziella: Recently I attended a class reunion and retired teachers' luncheon, and on both occasions I was asked, "What do you do for fun these days?" I think I shocked everybody.
"I have a book coming out. I am a writer. Well, it is not always fun, but yes, I do enjoy writing. I Iove taking writing classes and workshops, improving the craft, and meeting new, interesting people. I want to continue to learn and grow as a person and as a writer."
Besides that, it is a great excuse for getting out of full-time babysitting the grandkids.