I have a confession to make: I’ve always been somewhat ashamed of being a writer. Maybe ashamed isn’t the right word. Maybe I should say embarrassed. Whatever the word is, I’ve always kind of hidden my writing from others. It goes like this.
Standing around with the other men at a gathering of some sort, maybe a kid’s birthday party (when you have little kids there’s a lot of those). Not really knowing each other, sooner or later one of us says, “So, what do you do?” Ugh. I hate this question. I generally focus on the more acceptable jobs I’ve done over the years, like teacher, small business owner, social worker. If I mention writing at all it’s a quick mumble, always hoping they’ll gloss over it.
Bad is when someone says, “Oh, what do you write?” I was trying to avoid this. Bad enough that I spend so much time tapping computer keys for no money, but a great deal of that time has been spent writing fantasy. Fantasy. Saying that aloud to a group of strange men is the kiss of death. You write about dragons and unicorns? (For the record, I have never written about either. I have some pride. Just kidding. Not putting down those who write about either. I love both of them and can talk at length about The Last Unicorn.)
Even amongst my old friends, those who have known me since college, when I was actually getting my Creative Writing degree and was proud of it, I’ve kept it all down low. I don’t talk to them about my latest book, especially not when they’re talking about the stress and hassle of their Serious Important Jobs. It’s just me and my dirty little secret.
Why so much secrecy, you ask? Well, I think I’ve always felt the pressure to have a “real” job that is proper and productive. (For the record, I’ve had lots of “real” jobs. After all, I’m married with two kids. Food doesn’t produce itself. It’s just that I’ve always avoided them as much as possible and gotten tired of doing them right away.) Writing’s okay as a hobby, but a real man should have a real job. (Writing can be a real job too, if it’s technical writing or journalism, both of which I hate with a passion and both of which would crush the joy I take in writing.)
Anyway, I’m done with all that. I’m not hiding my passion anymore. I love writing. I am passionate about it. There’s nothing like the feeling when I’m in the midst of the scene and I can watch it unfolding before my eyes, when the characters are racing around doing crazy, cool, interesting things and I’m just running along after them trying to get it down before it’s gone. When it’s on, when it’s happening, I’m not calling the shots. The characters are. They come alive and they grab me by the throat and they demand to be heard.
It’s awesome. There’s nothing else like it.
I’m a writer. I’ve been writing novels for 25 years now, since the 80’s. By my estimation I passed Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour mark somewhere in the 2000’s. By now I must have 15k hours. That’s 15,000 hours of my life doing something that has almost never paid me a dime, turning out works that at most a few dozen people read. I’ve been writing in the early morning darkness when others were asleep. I’ve been writing when others were watching TV or killing time on the Internet. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month.
I’m proud of that. I’m proud of my dedication. Proud of my hard work. I’ve written a dozen novels over the years and the last five have been really good. They’re quality, well-crafted stories with strong characters and unexpected surprises. I can hold them up with pride.
I’m a writer. And I’m proud of it. If you’re a writer, I hope you’re proud of it as well.