Reading lots of other writer’s blogs and books about their art, it’s no secret that a common feature is a writer’s battle with self-doubt and anxiety about what they are trying to do. After all, it must seem odd to other people who don’t write that somebody would willingly go and sit in a corner of a room day after day, pounding away on a keyboard or scribbling in a notebook, only to emerge hours later, doubting everything they’ve written and most likely dumping it the next day.
There’s also that inevitable moment, when people ask what you do for a living. I’ve given all sorts of mumbling answers since trying to establish myself as a freelance writer. When I just wrote on the quiet, like a dirty secret in my journal every night, it was okay. Nobody asked and I didn’t need to say. But now that I’m not doing any other (paid) work and concentrating on writing, I find it harder.
I’ve gone from mumbling ‘working from home’, to ‘trying to write stuff’. Mostly, people tend to look at me with some kind of mix between disbelief, disdain, or envy.
But the worse question ALWAYS comes next: ‘So, what have you had published then?’ This is the trickiest part, because often, you’ve spent weeks working and had absolutely NOTHING published. Other weeks have been better, and I’ve recently had a few articles published, but I can’t honestly say they paid enough to even keep up with my increasing coffee shop habit. (I write better in coffee shops – OKAY???) Don’t judge me.
So, having struggled through the last six months or so since quitting my job to concentrate on writing, and trying to avoid questions about what I’m ‘doing with my time’, I had an absolute revelation this week. Standing outside the school gates waiting to pick up my eight year old, I was approached by a mum with a daughter in the same class. I’m not on intimate terms with this other mum, but she clearly had something pressing to say. I braced myself for the cross-examination, when she totally took me by surprise by saying ‘I hear you’re a writer!’ I felt winded for a minute, not sure how to reply. Apparently, she had been on a school trip with the class and my daughter had told her, proudly, that I was an author.
Now, anybody who has met my lovely little firecracker of a girl would know that she isn’t exactly generous with the compliments. She is funny and bright and often sarcastic and ironic. I genuinely thought she didn’t take any notice of what I did. Yet, she had apparently been bragging about my writing to this mum! I was astounded. But also something else: I was ashamed of my pathetic attempts to ‘explain’ myself, when my eight year old had no problems simplifying it for me.
When I got home, I did something really embarrassing: I Googled myself. I know, I know. But I put my name and ‘author’ after it (I was blushing all the while) and, amazingly, despite having a pretty common name, it brought me up with links to some of my published articles!! I was amazed.
So that was what convinced me. If my feisty daughter considers me a writer, and if the internet considers me a writer, by God, I’m going to own the name myself!
Trouble is, nobody’s asked me since. I’m thinking of getting a t-shirt printed. A step too far, maybe…?
Have a great week, writing or whatever.