“You’re a WRITER?”: The Stigma attached to Writing

((Warning: Excessive use of Supernatural GIFS ahead.  Although is there really such a thing as an excessive amount of Sam and Dean Winchester?  Ah, philosophical questions…  Oh right, my post.))

When people ask me, in the course of every-day discussion (I work in a very social job, involving interaction with both customers and co-workers, so I make a lot of small-talk all day,) what I went to school for, I hesitate.  Just a split second.  Do I say English?  Or do I just go for it and say the truth–English writing?  Inevitably, the result is usually the same.

“Oh, so like, a teacher?”

Sigh.  “No, not really…”  Sometimes if I think that they won’t take me seriously or get really offended, I’ll follow that with something funny about how I hate kids.  Which isn’t actually true, but I had a hard enough time in school dealing with my peers who weren’t paying attention.  The idea of being the one expected to corral those little monsters and try to teach them something useful is more than I could bear.  God bless our teachers.

But then there’s the second, longer pause.  Do I say the reason I got that English writing degree?  Or do I just brush off the question by intimating that I have no real idea what I went to college for, all of these student loans later?

“I’m… trying to be a writer.  You know.  Novels and stuff.”

And then I cringe inside, because that sounds weak, even to me.  Is that what I want or not?  It certainly doesn’t sound like it from the above, does it?  But there’s just such a stigma about writing as a “profession,” that even I can’t seem to escape the social pressures.

It makes me feel horrible, that little pause inside my head while I wrestle with myself.  I could lie and go with the line I used to use–working as an editor somewhere.  At least that sounds semi-legitimate, you know?  Like a 9-to-5 that people would understand and consider a “good day’s work.”  But the idea of being an author, as a career, is just so foreign to most people.  Of course they realize that SOMEONE is writing those books that they read on airplanes or tucked in bathrooms, but the idea of that being something that makes money, enough to live on, and that someone THEY HAVE MET could be aspiring to that… well.

Obviously I’m not exactly rolling in it, I’m working at Macy’s.  But you know what I mean.

Luckily I have finished Gaia, so at least I have that in my arsenal to pull out, to shield myself with from the skepticism.  “Oh yeah, I’ve even finished my first novel, so…”  Unpublished, as yet.  Semi-unedited, as yet.  But it’s something, right???

And then my own inner turmoil.  Do I even deserve to call myself a writer?  It’s not like I’m a member of the dying world of journalism, writing newspaper articles every day.  If I was really dedicated to writing, wouldn’t I want to do it all the time, no matter the writing?  No matter that the idea of boiling a story down to its bare bones seems incredibly boring to me?  Are you really a writer if you have a sort-of-finished novel under your belt and a couple of short stories published when you were in college?

And if that’s what your heart is set on being, deep, deep, deep down, then what are you in the interim when you’re not making any money at it?  The arts have to be  the only professions where to do what you’re really dying to do, you have to accept the fact that you’ll likely not make ANY money at it for a good long while.  My cousin loves numbers, and she went to college to be an accountant.  (You’ll probably remember my mentioning her before, because I mean, an accountant!)  She got an entry-level job doing what she loved–not even, it was an INTERNSHIP–and she was making 22 dollars an hour.

Which I mean, yeah.  They’re the arts for a reason.  They’re based more on talents and how you’re perceived by the general populace more than knowing how to perform a task and performing it well for 8 or 9 hours a day.  I totally get that.  Just like I get that they say you shouldn’t write for the money.  (A topic I’ll no doubt get back to someday.)

But you can see how all of these things, floating around in the heads of everyone, myself included, can tend to be in conflict when people ask what it is I want to do when I grow up.  (It’s bound to happen one of these days…)

Some people are lucky.  They somehow manage to finagle the resources so that they can take the time to really give the whole thing a go.  Some are less lucky, but still incredibly lucky–they eke out those words in a busy schedule, the stars align thanks to heavy elbow grease, and they become sensations.  Everyone’s situation is different.

But I do hope that a day comes when someone asks me what I do, and “I’m a writer!” will come tripping off my tongue, like someone trouncing through a flowery meadow.  Because I’ll know that it’s true, and I’ll know that it’s right.

So maybe the people around me will believe it, too.

Celeste

Thanks. I’ll keep telling myself that, Dean. 🙂

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