Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Am I a writer?

I've been writing forever...well, to be accurate probably more like since someone put a pen in my hand and I passed kindergarten with the ability to form letters on paper.

It started off with those school assignments: "My name is Danielle. I like my dog. I has one older brothers whos mean to me sometimes."

Then I started writing letters to my grandparents/aunts/uncles/pen-pals constantly: "Dear Grandmother and Grandad, How are you? I am fine." (they always started that way, I was not very creative at the time).

In elementary school in Florida they spend a ridiculous amount of time preparing kids for the standardized writing test FCAT. I absolutely loved that test. I loved getting ready for that test. My teachers actually gave me assignments to write stories every day! It was amazing. I clearly remember taking the test in 5th grade, plotting out this detailed fantasy story (the directions were to write a narrative) about a person eating plant that took over a little girls pool and trapped her brother against the screen wrapped in vines. I was joyfully scribbling away when the teacher said time was almost up and I had to cut it short with some crappy ending that I wasn't happy with. I got the highest score, but to be honest it still bothers me that I didn't get to finish it the way I wanted to.

I continued writing short stories and essays for school assignments. I even started writing outside of school on my mom's computer (when she wasn't hogging it with her own writing), mostly my own fairy tales.

Then in high school I discovered the wonder of fanfiction, and wrote a ton of it and published it on It was awesome, finally finding other people who wanted to read my writing and enjoyed it, and reading theirs in return.

I'm not sure why, but I never took any of this writing seriously. I never thought about going to college for English or creative writing. My perception of those degrees was that the only thing you could do with them was teach, which was definitely not what I wanted to do. I knew that I loved writing, but I didn't seriously think I could make a career out of it, nor that I even wanted to. So I went to school for hospitality management, because at 18 I thought working holidays and weekends and ridiculous hours was fun.

It was while I went to school for hospitality that I started writing my first book. I'm not sure why-- I remember being home for a visit and suddenly just having the urge to write. I grabbed my computer and started, although it took me over a year to finish that book, which I now consider to be my practice book. After I finished that book I started two more, both of which were much better. I recently finished one of those, and have now decided to start down the long road of getting it published.

All that being said - the question I have is this: When do you consider yourself to be a "writer"? If a stranger asked me what I did, there is no way I would answer "Oh, I'm a writer!" Because the follow-up question "What do you write? Are you published?" would have to be met with the depressing answer "I write novels, but, well, no, they're not published...yet, anyway...I mean, I'm trying to....I'm still editing..." and the person nodding but looking confused before asking "So, what do you really do?" and then I'd have to admit that I work in a smoothie shop, which is obviously the answer I should've given in the first place.

It's quite unfair, really, but I don't feel that I will be taken seriously as a writer until I can point to my book on the shelf and say "Yeah, I wrote that." My friends know that I write, in that vague, "oh I think she said something about that" kind of way. They joke about when I'm going to be a famous author and able to take them on luxurious vacations, but do any of them really think it's going to happen? My guess would be no. And it's not because they don't believe in me or are unsupportive. It's because writing is such a private thing. Most of them have never seen me do it. Most of them have no interest in reading what I write. And most importantly, most of them do not think of me as a writer!

When someone is in medical school, you don't doubt that they are going to be a doctor. When someone is in law school, you don't roll your eyes when they say they're going to be a lawyer. But when you say that you're a writer, unless you can hold up your glossy covered, freshly-printed work for everyone to see, you're going to get the dismissive pat on the head and the looks that always say "yeah, right."


Amelia said...

I really enjoyed reading your "practice book (at least i think thats the one)" and i would love to read any of your new ones!!

And i really hope you do get published, because i think you have a talent that alot of people wish they had!

Oh and i'll take a trip to Sandals, when that day comes ;)


Anonymous said...

Amazing Blog, your stories are awesome!

I have to say, I think being creative and making that your profession you get free reign over when you can say you've made it. In other words, don't let others make you feel like you cant say you're a writer. If you write because you love it you're a writer. Yes it would be awesome to have a published book out but I think it comes in time. Just keep working at it!

DaniSue said...

Amelia - yeah that was the practice book you read :) as soon as I finish editing the one I'm working on now I'll send it you : )
As for the vacation, let's go somewhere super trendy and hard to pronounce - St. Barth's maybe? Curacao?

barbmeyers said...

You can always say you're a writer because you write. You can't say you're a published author until you are one. That's basically the difference. People might be condescending to you prior to publication, but there's no reason NOT to tell people you write anyway. You might get story ideas from the convesations that generates...

Anonymous said...

I, too, have been leary of telling people I write. Why? IDK, I'm one of those science nerds. Anyway, the people I do tell have been really supportive. No one has told me to stop. I'm taking that as a good thing. :)