I Know You Are, But What Am I?

I have trouble admitting to myself (and others) that I’m a professional writer. On some level, I know that I make my living from putting one word in front of another and doing it until I make sentences and then making enough sentences until there are paragraphs, posts, essays and thoughts, but on another, I still don’t feel like a professional writer. There’s part of my head that thinks “Well, you’re only a blogger, and that’s different. It’s not like you’re a novelist or playwright or a real writer like that.”

(Our next door neighbor, having seen me sitting at my laptop typing many many times, asked Kate if I was working on a novel. “He seems to always be working,” he apparently said, and I am. I had to bite back the response that it feels like a professional blogger seems like more work than writing a novel, sometimes. All those ideas, all that brevity! On an unending daily basis!)

I have trouble remembering when writing became my “thing”; I went to art school for years because drawing was my thing, and the only writing I did was to support that, whether it was stories to illustrate or essays or whatever. But somewhere along the line, making images became less fun and more exhausting, more competitive, and I was always surrounded by people who could do what I could do much better, and so I retreated into words: My final MA show was a book, which I had illustrated, yes, but which was about the words as much as the way it looked. Self-expression through language.

From there, writing was a hobby, a way of blowing off steam, I guess; an all-encompassing way, sometimes, but still. When I started writing for other people – at first, the audience I realized I had, then for Brian (My first paid writing gig!), for Matt, for others – it became this responsibility, scary in its expectation. But by the time Annalee and io9 came around, I’d gotten over that (Well, for the most part), and the idea of making a living as a writer seemed like a dream come true.

It still does, I should add; doing what I do for a living is amazing to me, even now, more than a year into it. But, for some reason, I still feel that there is a distance to go before I become a professional writer.

(Originally published July 12, 2009 at iamgraememcmillan.com before it got retrofitted as a work site. This is very funny to go back and re-read now, considering that it’s three years later and I am far more jaded about being a writer by this point, even though I now write for Time.)

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