I’m A Writer

Yesterday, I was at a birthday party when a woman I had just met asked the inevitable question, “And what do you do?”  Without giving the matter a second’s thought, I simply answered, “I’m a writer.”  Now I’ve been asked that question more times than I can count, but that was the first time I ever answered it with those particular words.

Yes, I’ve been writing my whole life, or at least from the age that I could first pick up a pencil and carefully write down the words to a story.  But we live in a society that defines us by what we do for a living, and I have never earned a living through my writing.  Writing has always been something I did on the side, either while working at the rather tedious jobs I held when I worked full-time, or when I was a stay-at-home mom with my two children.  Sure, I sold some articles and even had a very short book published by an educational publisher, but a writing career was always a dream I pursued and never the reality I actually lived.

Which is why I was very surprised by the way I answered the question at the party.  The four children’s book manuscripts I have written are still sitting, unpublished, in my files.  My name is not, sadly, on the New York Times best-sellers list.  If you went to any library in the country and tried to find a book by Ann Coleman, you would fail to do so. (Unless there is another person by the same name out there who has had more publishing success than I have.  If there is, please don’t tell me, because I might be tempted to claim credit for her work when I’m having a bad day.)  Yes, I am now writing this blog, but it’s been going for eighteen months and I have only recently the 400-followers mark.  Advertisers are not exactly pounding on my door, wanting a piece of the action.

I think all that has changed is the way I have learned to think about myself.  When I was younger, I secretly defined myself as a writer, but believed that I had no right to publicly claim that title until I had appropriate validation from the publishing world.  I desperately wanted to sell books to a major publisher, not so much to see my work in print, but to feel as if I had finally earned permission to call myself a writer.  “Of course I’m an author,” I would be able to say, pointing casually at the shelf full of my published books as proof.

But now I realize that whether or not I can earn a living through my stories and essays isn’t what makes me a writer.  I have come to believe that if someone writes regularly (I do) and puts his or her writing out for others to read (I do), and works hard at  improving his or her writing skills (I do), then that person is, indeed, a writer.

Some of us are blessed to be able to earn a living doing what we love most, and that’s truly a wonderful thing.  But the rest of us don’t have to let ourselves be defined by how we pay our bills.  If we are doing what we love to do, whether it’s writing, gardening, painting, woodworking, or whatever, then I believe we have the right to define ourselves by our passion.  And we shouldn’t hesitate to share that definition with others when we are asked, as we always will be, “And what do you do?”

57 thoughts on “I’m A Writer

  1. Sounds good to me. I just say, “I’m retired.” and if they want to know what I do with my time I can list lots of things. I tend, also, to feel like an occupation goes with what you do to make a living but that doesn’t mean you aren’t what you feel you are.

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    • Thanks so much for your kind words! And there’s no such thing as a blogging stalker…if it’s on a blog, it’s there for the reading. I’m just so glad that it speaks to you! All the best to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Even getting a single volume published by an educational publisher is way more than I’ve ever achieved through writing, so hats off to you for that. Have you sent the four manuscripts to publishers yet? If they’ve been rejected, have you made the edits and changes suggested and resubmitted them? If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all the author blogs I’ve been reading over the past two years it’s that everybody gets rejected a million times before they succeed and that successful books almost always need a ton of revisions. (Okay, that’s two things.)

    Incidentally, the part about followers made me laugh. It took me some time, but I eventually realized that there’s a tremendous difference between having followers and having readers. When I began looking closely at which blogs I actually read rather than the ones I’d followed from politeness, it became clear that the former put their effort into the writing so didn’t always have the big numbers and the latter put almost all their effort into networking. They had so many followers, but to what end?

    Liked by 5 people

    • Sadly, yes, I’ve sent them off and have enough rejection letters to wallpaper a rather large room to show for it! I’ve had them ask for revisions, which I did, but still no sale. I did get some encouraging letters with the requests for revisions, but never an actual contract. I came to the conclusion that the sort of books l like to write and the sort that publishers can make money off publishing aren’t the same thing. Especially now that the “mid-list” authors in children’s books are almost all gone. But at least I knew I tried! And one of these days I will look into alternative publishing, too.
      As for the followers, yes, I noticed that too! A lot of people who are following my blog don’t actually read it, and a lot of my readers aren’t following. They just wait to see the newest post linked on my Facebook page, which is fine with me. Personally, I enjoy knowing my blog is being read, but don’t get excited about the follows because they are often not the same thing. I read blogs such as yours that are about the writing, because that is what interests me, although I do the “polite” follow from time to time as well.

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  3. Yay Ann! LOVE IT! I am currently listening to a book on tape (for the mere 1/2 hour a day I exercise- LOL!) by elizabeth gilbert (author of Eat Pray Love) called Big Magic. You MUST get it! YOU will love. Your post reminded me of this.

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    • Thanks for the recommendation, Jodi! And I saw you mentioned that on your blog, too! I have no idea why, but this comment went into my spam, and I only just now rescued it from there and put it on the post, where it belonged. It may have something to do with why my comments on your blog were going under “anonymous” for a couple of posts… Sometimes WordPress acts up a bit, but I’m hoping whatever problem it was has been solved now. Still, I’ll keep a better eye on my spam just in case!

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  4. I love this, Ann! Way to go for owning what you know you are. You need NO ONE’S permission to say you’re a writer. Say it, do it, write, and that’s it. No one becomes anything without throwing themselves to the wolves, and just figuring it out, doing it, believing in it, and owning it. That’s truly what most people (myself included, though I’m trying to change this) don’t get; there is no magic moment where you can finally say, I’ve done it, I’m this or that. We and our creative endeavors are always evolving and so at any moment we can say, I’m a writer (or an artist, musician, etc.). If other people don’t believe it or value what we have to offer, that’s their choice. I do hope, though, that you consider getting your children’s stories out there. Think of all the kids that would benefit by reading them.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, Kim! It’s taken me a long time to realize that I am in charge of my creative life, not other people, but I think I’ve finally gotten there! As for the children’s books, I’ve tried the traditional publishing routes with no success…it’s a shrinking market with less openings for us newbies. But there are nontraditional methods, and I’m working at getting over my fear of them and seeing what can happen. Thanks for your kind words!

      Liked by 2 people

      • You’re right that traditional publishing probably won’t work with kids these days. I think e-books is the way with the littles. My 9 year old wants to be on the computer all the time. It’s a constant battle. What about developing an e-book that includes animation with your books? I know it sounds so technical (believe me, I have no idea how to do this), but if you can enlist some younger people who do know how to do this to help develop your book, it could be great!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, an e-book is a good idea, and I bet I could get my son to help me with it. Traditional children’s publishing is sort of in trouble right now, particularly for the age I write for, which is middle grade (4th through 7th grade, more or less). When I look at the bookstore at what’s being offered in that category, it’s nothing like the books I write. But I just need to get off my duff and look at alternatives, like e-books. I know lots of authors are turning to them now, and that might just be the answer! Thanks, Kim!

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  5. Nice post, Ann The Writer. I think I’ll refer to you that way from now on..:) I think people should be able to define themselves instead of having others do that for them, regardless of what one may do to earn money. What defines us is not how we earn a living, it’s everything else that’s part of our lives and for you, writing is a big part of that and you do it quite well, I might add. There are so many musicians, actors, artists, etc that don’t earn creating their art but it’s who they may be at their core.
    Whenever anyone asked me what I do, I always said, whatever makes me happy. That’s what writing does for you and, in turn, what your talents do for us. Thank you, Ann, The Writer..:)

    Liked by 4 people

    • I completely agree, and I can’t believe how long it took me to figure that out! For some reason, I kept trying to “show” others who and what I was, rather than simply accepting what I already knew about myself. Somewhere along the way, I learned to start trusting my own voice a bit more, and that has been a good thing. And I love your answer to the “what do you do?” question, and think I’m going to have to steal that!
      As for “Ann The Writer,” you are so funny!!!!

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  6. I think Kim expresses the matter very well, Ann. I also thought it quite probably helpful for you, or indeed any true writer, to express publicly the fact of what essentially gives purpose and meaning, which permeates so much of what you or they do, and which of course is the creative process of writing. Some baulk at the idea of referring to themselves as an ‘author’, as if it were pretentious, though personally I see it as synonymous with ‘writer’.

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    • Thank you, Hariod, I think both you and Kim are right on target. We do get to define ourselves by what gives our lives purpose and meaning, and not confine ourselves to how we happen to earn a living. (I never held a job with a particularly impressive title or big salary, but we needed the money I did earn.) And I agree, there is nothing pretentious about the title “author” at all. Personally, I prefer writer, but that’s just me. Thanks, as always, for you insightful comments!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Our sense of self-worth shouldn’t be defined by society & not according to how much we earn or what our title is. As a mid-life career-changer who’s not having much luck finding a new job, I needed to hear this. There’s a lot of pressure to “succeed” but maybe I need to rethink what success really is. Thanks for an eye-opening post!

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  8. I like it. If you’re taking the time and effort to do something, and try to do it well, it’s only fair to give yourself credit for it. I think answering the question “what do you do?” can be misleading: who only does one thing?

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    • That’s a very good point. What people mean when they ask that is, “how do you earn a living?” But we do lots of different things with our time (sometimes even earn our living doing more than one thing), so it’s kind of a loaded question. And we should answer it however we want to!

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    • Thank you! There is something special about it, especially when it’s spontaneous, as it was for me. After I told the woman, “I’m a writer,” I actually thought, “wow, I can’t believe I just said that!”

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  9. Hear, hear Ann! Couldn’t agree with you more. I used to always think that to say I wrote somehow had less value than someone who went out to an office and did the expected 9-5 drill. But as I’ve got older I’ve realised this is my passion and no I longer hide it or feel it’s not as important as other jobs. In fact, someone asked me just the other day and like you I said “I’m a writer”. Good for you, we’re so similar it’s uncanny!

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    • Yes, Miriam! You are a writer, and a darned good one at that! I am so glad you are claiming that…it isn’t easy when we don’t actually earn our living from writing, but there does come a point when we realize that because writing is our passion and it’s what we do, then yes, we are writers!!! And we are so similar….I think we would be twins if we didn’t live half a world away from each other. And so we will just be blog friends. For now!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I agree.
    I’m having the same internal dialog as you and I think I’m getting closer to claiming that title myself. I am a writer. No longer an aspiring writer. People read my words on a daily basis now, so the validation exists. Thanks for this post. It has given me much to ponder today. Now off I go to print some business cards. I’m a writer. I’m a writer. I’m a writer!!!!!! Wait, in my case I’ll have to say ghost writer. Whoops!! New Business cards needed 😀

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    • Thank you! I think those of us who are blogging understand just how difficult it can be at times. But the benefits are worth it, especially when I don’t obsess about the stats!

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