I have a writer friend who’s email signature is ‘Artist | Writer’. Each time I get am email from them and see it, I get a funny, uncertain feeling in my stomach.
Let’s get this straight right here – this is my uneasiness. Nothing to do with them. It’s the same feeling I get every time I’m around someone who goes somewhere I can’t or won’t or don’t know how. Read as, I’m not brave or bold enough too.
So, yes, a sensitive spot for me. Seeing someone who just puts it out there fills me with joy (yes, you can just be a writer) and fear (be wary of the judgement of others).
I recently read Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan. In the introduction he said something that felt like a sucker punch to me:
An amateur writes for themselves. A professional writes for others.
I’d begun my latest manuscript in January this year with one clear aim in mind – to write a book I would want to read. Running concurrent to this was the idea that I was not someone who wants to be a writer or even an emerging writer. I was just a writer. Why? Because I write all the time. I have a dedicated and disciplined practice which nourishes my appetite for creative self-expression.
And yet, I let this statement needle me. The word ‘amateur’ rankled, made me feel small and lacking in character.
My insecurity. My hang-up.
It’s been weighing on my mind for a while and yesterday, I worked out why. As I am writing a novel for my own pleasure and readership, I’ve been unable to reconcile the idea that I am a writer. I was equating the title of writer with being a professional.
New York writer Jerome Charyn put it like this: being a writer means you’re an ‘apprentice for life’.
On the podcast The Moment with Brian Koppelman, Charyn expanded:
Each book has its own problem and you’ve got to solve that all over again…each book demands its own melody.
Something clicked. This idea cut deep. I began to mentally uncouple the links in my head. Being a ‘writer’ and being a ‘professional’ are not bound to each other.
‘I get it, now,’ I say to myself, self-deprecatingly.
A writer. That’s me. Why? Because tonight, without fail, you’ll find me at my keyboard. I’ll be working away, getting my manuscript completed, one scene at a time. I’ll be there tomorrow and the day after too if you miss me tonight.