Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Is this the real life? Is it just fantasy?

I search for jobs best after 1 a.m. My friends who troll the night start to drop off and it's just me, a little background noise, and a screen of "Posted Today."

I feel more audacious than hopeless at this hour. I click anything: "Fellowship in Germany"; "Senior Executive"; "Advice Columnist." Two out of three of those sound reasonable, don't they? I gloss over "5-7 years of experience," mouth "Yeah, yeah, yeah."

At this hour I'm getting ahead, I think. That or playing the nightly game of bursts of text before sleep.


For a long while I struggled with the difference between "I want to be a writer" and "I am a writer." I thought the latter only came to fruition upon publication. Someone else saying, "These words work."

I had friends who were very casual gymnasts. At practice they did a few tumbling passes, nothing difficult, and spent the rest of the time planning our weekend's social events and team T-shirts. But should anyone ask, they proudly stated, "I'm a gymnast." They weren't "trying to be" or "wanting" or "well, I do gymnastics but I'm not as good as the other girls." In their eyes, they were the real thing.

In my junior year of college, I started to understand. It was the first time I felt I was in a community of writers outside of writing emo Open Diary poems with my high school friends. Our class, lunch, outside conversations began with writing and spiraled elsewhere. But we held that in common: the telling of stories, both wanting to and doing so. And I was doing so, almost every day.

"You're only a writer on the days you write," one of our teachers said--a great mantra but also one that speaks to the writer as a construction of the self rather than of an outsider's subjectivity.

I write. I've been published. On occasion, I've earned money from my writing. Yet sometimes I still want to say, "I want to be a writer." Why "wanting" and not "being"? Too many years in the habit of over-modesty. Why not declare it so?

"What do you do?" the trapeze guy asks as I roll off the net.

"I'm a writer," I say.

"What do you write?"

"Non-fiction. And I've written a novel."

"Yeah? Is it the Great American Novel?"

"You'll have to find out." I grin.

A joking cockiness--it's unfamiliar. But not quite wrong.

1 comment:

Victor Giannini said...

You are a writer. You wrote a novel. You are many things, but no one who go into and graduated from our MFA "wants" to be a writer. We are all writers. But we're not all gymnasts....!