I love bowling. I was on my high-school team, took the class in college (come on, could there be an easier credit?) and am now part of a bowling league. But I still struggle to call myself a bowler. To the outsider, I doubt there is any question that I am a bowler – I have my own ball and shoes for goodness sake! – and yet when I look at myself in the mirror, I just see someone who really likes to bowl, but isn’t all that great. Well, it’s all relative, I suppose. My last league night I had a 117, 72, and 136. To some that would be excellent, to me, it’s alright, but compared to some of the others, it is downright disgraceful.
That shift in perspective is why I have a hard time calling myself a bowler. I am not as good as I want to be, and that means I am not a bowler – right?
Of course not. Bowler (according to Merriam-Webster) just means a person who bowls.* I am a person who bowls. I am a bowler. I AM a BOWLER.
Okay, so lets try to carry this over to writing, shall we?
Like in bowling, I struggle to call myself a writer, and for much the same reasons as I struggle calling myself a bowler. I write all the time (or at least a lot), I have finished four manuscripts, and I revise like crazy. But when I read, the words stir me and take root in my gut and twist me into a new being – someone who can’t see the world in quite the same way because of the significance of what characters have gone through, someone who has learned something through reading.
And I sit back.
And I think, I don’t do that. I don’t teach anyone anything. I don’t stir emotions and twist guts.
And I don’t call myself a writer, no matter how many of my friends tell me that I have a wonderful story, no matter how many times they tell me it is powerful and moving. They’re my friends – they have to be nice, don’t they? And yet. Writer just means one who writes. I write. I’m not published, but I write. I know that I am a writer. But saying it aloud, it carries societies preconceived notions of what being a writer is – published, a little eccentric, and either dirt poor or filthy rich. I am not any of those things. Perhaps that is why I cannot call myself a writer – not yet at least. Just like my stories, it is a work in progress.
Do you call yourself a writer?
Take care, fellow travelers.
*It also means a player who delivers the ball to the batsman in cricket and a type of hat – but those aren’t exactly relevant. 🙂