This light-hearted article has a serious point: you are a writer, and you should stop at nothing to trick yourself into believing it, even on your worst days. Here’s how I did just that.
Defining ourselves as writers when we’re working on speculative manuscripts, short stories, queries — anything we love to write — is difficult. Most of us are conditioned to think that unless someone has given us a contract to write something, it’s not ‘real’.
I’ve been out of the wage-slave business for a long time now. Since leaving corporate life, first I was a freelance business writer, then a stay-at-home mom and now I’m a mom/writer/part-time-lunch-lady-at-my-kids’-school.
Defining myself as a writer when I was doing freelance business & magazine writing was easy. I wrote something; someone paid me; I was “a writer”.
Defining myself as a mother is inescapable. I have two chatty reminders of it orbiting me at all times except during school hours. And it’s pretty hard to forget you’re a part-time-lunch-lady when hundreds of kids are streaming past, grabbing their yellow or red foodstuffs out of your hands and grunting monosyllabically as they go.
But our writing lives are real. We need to let ourselves take them seriously.
The Forehead Stamp
My writer’s group recently hosted Nicole Valentine of Figment.com. As well as running a writer’s site for teens, Nicole is a writer herself, pursuing an MFA. Yet she still has trouble with this question. She joked that she often wants to get a stamp with “writer” on it and stamp it on her forehead, just to remind herself that it’s OK to say it.
I was seriously thinking about how to fashion one of these stamps 1 when an odd thing happened as I was running from the school to a store and trying to get home in time for the school bus.
In my rush I had forgotten to take off my ID badge. I feel kind of silly wearing it because I’m only a part-time lunch lady. That day I realised that, to anyone walking past, I could have been any working woman on a break from doing something high-powered and ‘important’ 2. Having been out of the corporate world for about a decade, I got a real kick out of having that ID card dangling from my pocket again. It was ridiculous.
Then I realized, beyond impressing grocery-store-bound strangers, that ID card had done something else for me: clipping that ridiculous card to my belt made me feel professional – even if I was just going in to sling pizza at pre-teens. If an ID card could make me feel professional about being a part-time lunch lady, then maybe I could go one better than Nicole’s forehead-rubber-stamp idea and issue my writer-self an ID card too.
So I Did
I know, it’s goofy. It cost me $18 with shipping, and it doesn’t actually change anything. But when I swap out my lunch-lady ID for my Writer ID, it is a tangible reminder to myself to come home and put my writing first. I can be a mom, a wife, a cook, a friend, a slob later. Now is the time for writing. Because see? I’m a writer.
If you want your own Writer ID card, you can go here (not an affiliate link). Go on, treat yourself. It’s cheaper than a set of golf clubs, a fancy bike, or even the cost of a sweater and nobody laughs at golfers, cyclists or fashionistas for spending money on their avocation. 3
So, what do you do to remind yourself it’s OK to say “I’m A Writer”?
- Maybe with ink that only showed up under blacklight, so we could use it every day, in secret… ↩
- I happen to think that being in the lunchroom and trying to slow the de-evolution of our children back to chimp-status is important, but not everyone sees it that way. Just as not everyone sees ‘making up stories with no promise of a paycheck’ as a worthwhile pursuit. Though, strangely, everyone is impressed by a ‘published’ author… ↩
- Well, ok. We do laugh at them. But that just proves that the potential mockery of others from outside your tribe is no reason to hold yourself back. ↩