Am I a real writer yet?

What I crave isn’t numbers or popularity, but legitimacy (2)“But would it be a real book?” I said, more to myself than to Ian as I weighed possible options in my mind. I’d spent some time that day investigating a self-publishing option through Amazon that would allow me to take the Word document that I’ve become rather emotionally attached to and transform it into a book available for purchase on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback.

But would it be real?

“I want a real book,” I told my husband. Just like Geppetto wanted the Blue Fairy to transform his little wooden puppet into a real boy, I wanted her to work her blue magic and bippity boppity boo my manuscript into a real book. Only, unlike Geppetto, what I was really after wasn’t life but legitamicy.

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When I first started blogging I’d hoped I might be able to force some of my Facebook friends to read it by shoving the posts into their feed. I’d hoped maybe a random person I’d never met or two might stroll on over and say hello. But that was it, really.

Then, I had a post get some traction and I told Ian, “I might be able to make it to 500 followers if this keeps up!” I was almost afraid to say it out loud just in case it jinxed it (or at the very least gave me false hope).

I made it to 500. And then I felt like I might feel like a successful, legitimized blogger if I were to make it to 1,000 followers. And then that happened, too. So then I thought I’d finally truly feel like I’d made it if I could only reach 2,000.

Well, now I have nearly 10,000 followers and I still find myself feeling like I’m praying to the Blue Fairy. What I crave isn’t numbers or popularity, even though that’s probably what it sounds like; I just want to feel like I’m the real deal. I want to be real. Not famous, but legitimate. I feel like a poser. I feel like the kid who snuck in with a fake ID and is afraid they’re going to get caught. I want someone to tell me that I can relax because I’m old enough to drink, so no ones going to be kicking me out of the bar or calling my folks because I’m old enough to be here. I’m legitimate. I belong.

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I looked up to the regular contributors to Huffington Post. They were my blogging idols. I thought that if I were ever, someday way off in the future, to reach the point of being a Huffington Post contributor that I’d finally feel as if I’d made it. Not only would I be a blogger, I’d be a real writer.

And then earlier this year I got an email from Arianna Huffington, herself. She’d liked a piece I’d pitched to her. I ran around the apartment screaming about how the Huffington had emailed me. I ran around screaming about how she’d said I was going to be a regular contributor.

But Arianna Huffington was not my Blue Fairy.

I now have a nifty little writer profile on the Huffington Post. But I still find myself saying how I’m really “just a blogger” — as opposed to something that feels like it might be a bit more credible like a freelance writer or journalist or author or poet.

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I want to call myself a blogger without adding a qualifier.

I want to call myself a freelance writer.

I want to call myself a writer.

I want to call myself a memoirst.

I want to call myself a poet.

And very secretly, I want to call myself an artist.

But this horrible question of But am I a real one? keeps getting in the way.

I suppose it doesn’t help that I’ve spent too much time hanging around the fringes of academia, feeling inadequate because I don’t have a Master’s in creative writing. I worked for several years as an English tutor at a community college. I worked closely with members of the English department, and after a while it started to feel like I was part of a select few who didn’t have a Master’s degree in English. By the time I left that job I felt as if I was failing at life because I hadn’t earned a Master’s in English; the lone illegitimate one. But when I finally asked myself if a Master’s in English was even something I wanted, the answer was decidedly no.

I suppose it also doesn’t help that I spent too much time growing up around published authors. Or, as they liked to put it, “traditionally published authors.” They looked down on self-published authors because, unlike them, they weren’t the genuine article. Not all “traditionally published authors” are like this. I’ve known quite a few who weren’t. And I’ve known quite a few who were.

Seeing books published by my mother or family friends on the display table at Barnes and Nobel wasn’t a big deal. It was just a part of life. Sure, it was pretty cool I guess. But I honestly couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. That was just mom and dad’s friend, so what?

But now the words traditionally published author hang in the air, haunting me. I’d like to write a book. I have more than one partly-written manuscript gathering dust in Word documents. I’m just not sure how exactly to transform them from manuscripts to books.

Sometimes I wonder if I’d prefer self-publishing via Amazon so I could maintain complete creative control (even though, yes, I might not make a cent). When I can silence the voices chanting traditionally published author and when I can silence my questions of Would it be a real book? Would I be a real author? it seems like it has the possibility at least of being a good fit for me.

But then I worry that it might not be enough to just see a book with my name on it on Amazon. I still might not have finally found the Blue Fairy. My book might not be real. And worst of all, after all the work and emotional energy I might still not be real.

I could go the traditional route. Maybe I could get an agent’s attention. And if so, maybe I’d be able to get a publishing house’s attention. And then I wonder if this, if this, would be my Blue Fairy.

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I asked author and artist Mandy Steward how she managed to claim the word artist. A word that sounds so nice to me but has always felt like it applied to people who were more talented, more creative than me and have at least a Master’s tucked away in their back pocket. She wrote a blog post in response to my question, and this is what struck me the hardest:

In the next couple years [after the publication of my book] I went through another detour because my book didn’t “make it” like I had believed it would. So on the tails of my spiritual crisis I had an artist crisis as well. What if I’m not as great as I think? What if I gained creative control of my life and now can’t do anything with it? What if I now lost everything – my faith and my artistic dreams? This was my darkest hour yet and I don’t think I’ll ever hit that low again.

She did it. She’s a traditionally published author. She’s an artist with people like me following her, looking up to her, and hoping her creative and messy ways rub off on us a little. In my book, she’d become BFFs with the teasingly elusive Blue Fairy. But becoming a traditionally published author didn’t ward off fears of failure. It didn’t make her stop wondering if she was real.

And somehow thanks to Mandy’s response I realized that I’m never going to find the Blue Fairy. Maybe she’s just the stuff of stories. But that’s okay. I don’t think I really need her anyway.

Last year I decided to stop waiting for the day that I’d believe other people when they told me that I was beautiful. That I’d stop waiting to believe my husband. And, instead, I started telling myself. I look at myself in the mirror in the morning and I say to myself, “My you’re looking beautiful today.” At first the word felt uncomfortable, foreign, and even untrue. Sometimes I felt like I was lying to myself. But the more I say it, the more I believe it. It didn’t matter how many times my husband said it, I wasn’t going to believe it until I started saying it for myself.

And I think the same principle applies in my search for legitimacy. There’s always going to be people that are “more successful” than me. So if I determine my identity, my legitimacy, based on readers or compliments or money in the bank or where my book was printed I’m never going to feel real. But I am real, just like I am beautiful.

I’m a writer. A real writer. A new one, yes, but a real one just the same. And I’m going to start telling myself it. I’m going to be my own damn Blue Fairy.

And what about those other lovely words? Freelance writer. Memoirist. Poet. Artist. I’ll get to those, too. But today I’ll start with writer.

What do you need to start calling yourself today?

Aside: I’ve starting sharing poetry on Instagram, so come on over.

28 thoughts on “Am I a real writer yet?

  1. Create your own definition of a writer, and of success. Sounds like you’re well on your way. Whose judgments are you carrying around? Lots that aren’t yours. If you have a passion to write, you are a writer. Period. If you manage to get thoughts coherently onto paper (or screen), that is success. As long as your music doesn’t stay locked up inside you, it will travel and find the people it needs to find. Keep on doing your thing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kelsey, My post was not meant as criticism. It was meant as an encouragement for everyone talks about themselves lots and lots. Just some good advice to keep others from being overwhelmed with the I’s . 🙂

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  3. Until just near the end of this, I kept thinking, “YOU’RE the blue fairy. Only you can legitimize yourself to yourself.” But, then, you said it. 🙂 Because you get it. Until YOU believe in you, it wouldn’t matter if a book company published 50 of your books and they all ended up on the NY Times bestseller list … you’d still be wondering, “Am I enough?” That’s the real question, isn’t it? And don’t we see it a hundred times a day from the ‘stars’ that surround us? Depression, thrill seeking, drug overdose, suicide – all ample evidence that the amount of success or fame matters not one whit.

    I remember one day telling someone that re. church matters. It was a discussion on salvation. How much faith is enough to get one saved? How much belief is enough? How many works are enough to qualify me? The answer is: In a legalistic system of comparisons, it’s never ‘enough’. I’ll never love enough, give enough, or BE enough until I simply recognize that I am what I am, where I am, right here, right now. If that isn’t enough, nothing else ever will be.

    Ultimately, legitimacy must come from within. We have to believe in ourselves first. Then we have nothing to prove or gain from anyone or anything outside of ourselves.

    Love you, my friend!
    C

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your comment, C. You’re like the person watching the movie who guesses the end, haha. 🙂

      This bit from your comment is beautiful: “Ultimately, legitimacy must come from within. We have to believe in ourselves first. Then we have nothing to prove or gain from anyone or anything outside of ourselves.” So true.

      Thank you for being so encouraging, C. Having you along for the journey sure makes writing a lot more fun. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Am I a real writer yet? — Kelsey L. Munger – microlitera

  5. The endless confidence questioning… I’ve discovered that I’m a “real writer” when I decide that I am. And how powerful, how frightful it is to realize that I am the one with the ability to create the life I wish to live. I cannot put it on anyone else. I either create or stand in my own way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “And how powerful, how frightful it is to realize that I am the one with the ability to create the life I wish to live. I cannot put it on anyone else. I either create or stand in my own way.” Beautifully put, Amber. You’re so right. We are each individually the ones with the power to either create our stand in our own way. There is something liberating, empowering, and also frightful about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Am I a real writer yet? . More like a question of legitimacy and authenticity. But why should I be bothered, even if the degree I have is not close to creative writing.
    I just want to do the things that makes me happy. I want to live free.
    So the question of whether am a writer or not. …Well you gonna have to figure that out yourself because as for me…..,
    I just transfer my thoughts to my hand, making the pen move across the book, i inscribe the letters as fast as I can so I don’t forget the message.
    Thanks for the post Kelsey and you are a writer, a real one.

    Like

    • Yes, it certainly is a question of legitimacy and authenticity. And there’s so much confidence (or lack of confidence) wrapped up in there, too.

      Thank you for your encouraging comment. I appreciate that you took the time to write. And, yes, you are completely right that you shouldn’t be bothered by things like your degree not being close to creative writing. Keep writing, you’re a real writer, too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Shirley Corrigan

    Good for you Kelsley! I love reading your articles. They are authentic and speak to my spirit and when your book is published I will be buying it.

    I haven’t even started a Blog yet, but I tell myself, and others, that I am a writer and I use every way I can think of to remind myself of this. My life situation is not yet there for me to be a writer full-time, or even part-time in the true sense of the word, but in 10 years, or less, that will be my reality. In the meantime I will do whatever I can to work towards my dream and I know that BELIEVING in it is the first step and the only way to keep moving forward, even if I have no external proof as yet. Go well and keep being your own Blue Fairy. It is the only way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Shirley! And I’m so sorry this reply is coming so late. I hadn’t realized I’d been so bad about responding to comments this fall.

      You are a writer. A writer is someone who writes. It’s not about numbers — whether payment or readership — but getting those words out and on to a page (or screen). You’re a writer. A real one. 🙂

      If you ever want to talk about writing, feel free to email me (KelseyMunger1@gmail). It’s always fun to chat with someone else who enjoys it, too. 🙂

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  8. Kelsey, your post goes right to the heart of the insecurity that plagues so many writers. The impostor syndrome is powerful! “Legitimacy” is what so many of us crave.

    I applaud you for claiming your identity as a writer!

    Thanks for following WordSisters. I hope you’ll enjoy our perspectives.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. John Anderson

    Excellent article! I’m struck by how much of our journey parallels. I too move through religious trauma, tirersome searches for legitimacy, and the shocking simplicity of self-discovery. I appreciate your writings and the blessing that come with reading the heart of a kindred spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to reply, John. Thank you so much for leaving such a kind and supportive comment. I appreciate that you took the time to let me know that you can relate. One of the best things to come out of blogging is when I share something that I feel like other people don’t understand and someone says, “Me too.”

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