Friday, March 20, 2009

So What Am I? A Writer?

I realize that as a writer, part of the job is marketing yourself and putting yourself (and your work) out there for critique and recognition. But I also find this part of the process not simply foreign to me but largely uncomfortable. After all isn't that why I write? I like putting my thoughts on paper and letting them go on before me...kind of like an introduction to the person behind the scenes.

When I began my first book, I simply set out to finish something I had begun years before -mostly for personal satisfaction but also to get back to the person I had been before diapers and soccer practice consumed my life. But sometime during those two years, I began to feel the passion for my work returning until it began to consume me characters began to go off in directions of their own without waiting for my lead. I began to worry about the choices they were making by day and dreaming about their futures by night. I began to feel and act like a writer. Nonetheless, I waited and plodded away secretly until my friends began to notice I was MIA from usual play groups and afternoon conversations. Only my children knew to find me in the office upstairs if they were hungry or tired.

But finally my novel was finished. My book that I had written with almost no one knowing about it was done and I wanted to shout my news from the rooftops and hold it out to everyone I met. But when I stood there at the top of the world and looked out it was just a tiny squeak that slipped from my lips...i wrote a book...I whispered into the wind that swallowed it whole.

It seemed I hadn't prepared for the finishing of my novel - I hadn't prepared for what I would do when I finally crossed that last t and dotted that last i. I had been so lost in the process. So absorbed by my endeavor. So I waited. I waited for a voice to call out from the heavens proclaiming me a WRITER and perhaps even dreamed for a little 3 by 2 business card to waft down on a breeze giving me an instant title and credibility in the world of authordom. Needless to say, it didn't pan out quite that way. Instead I sat down to dinner that night much the same person I had been for the past two years, thinking about my book and the characters that had become my friends and feeling an unexpected loss. What would happen to them now that I had moved on?

Then, a few weeks later, the strangest thing happened. My husband was on the telephone with a business colleague and I heard him say: "My wife? She's a writer. She just finished her first novel." I was incredulous and - if I'm being honest - a tad embarrassed too. How could I have the gall to call myself a writer? Dostoyevsky, James Joyce, Maya Angelo...those are writers. I haven't been published! If I met someone at a cocktail party and they introduced themselves as a writer, I would ask what they had done and upon finding them unpublished just chalk it up to inflated ego. (Perhaps I am a tougher critic than most, but I doubt it!)

In the days that followed, I spent endless hours mulling the possibility over in my mind and testing the sound of it on my tongue...Hi, I'm Johanna, I'm a writer. Sounds kind of nice actually. In fact in all other aspects of my life I adopted my job description titles rather easily and with gusto...At 24 I got married and within minutes called myself a WIFE having done little or nothing to earn the title. And at 26 I had my first child and as soon as the nurse handed me the little swaddled bundle, I called myself MOTHER - never mind that I had no professional training or certification in that realm - I simply was. I birthed a baby and became a mother. So here I am, having birthed a novel - a novel of 125,000 words which I figure is at least equivalent to birthing a 10 pound baby minus the epidural... Therefore, I am a writer.

So I introduce myself here as a writer, in written words with which I am so comfortable. But don't mind me if we meet on the street and I introduce myself just as Johanna, wife and mother. Afterall, I am a work in progress.


  1. I was feeling the same way, and I haven't even finished my manuscript yet... I mean, having difficulty calling myself a "writer". So I went to and ordered myself some pretty-pretty cards announcing that I am a freelance writer, blogger, and future literary legend!

    I know what you mean about being so lost in your characters' worlds. My Abby and Seth and the fictional town of Emporia, MN are more real to me than my actual world right now. On Saturday, I was telling my son and daughter-in-law the latest on the book, and he says, "Um, you know I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, right?"

    But I'm still a writer.

  2. Isn't that funny when you talk about your characters like they are real people? I do it all the time, and I'm still sad that I had to leave them behind to start my next project. (And between you and me, I keep typing the wrong names in my second manuscript!) Now that I am exploring Sadie, my newest protagonist, it is hard not to let my previous heroine creep in. Ahhh - the trials and tribulations of being a writer!

    Thanks for checking out my blog, hope to hear more from you!