I’ve always wanted to be a writer. When I was young, that meant writing the kind of three-decker high fantasy novels that I loved. I couldn’t think of any higher ambition than giving others the pleasure these books had given me.
Fast forward through high school and college, and my attempts at fiction writing stutter to a halt. My stories don’t feel real to me, and if they don’t convince me, they certainly won’t engage anyone else. I hear from many fiction writers that writing is something you do because you have to — you have an overwhelming drive to carry on through the difficulties, as well as a sense of the reality of your fictional world. I don’t have this, and a vague wish is not enough.
I still love writing, though. I love writing essays for my classes; to me it’s a creative process, a path of discovery, not a form of drudgery. Later on I enjoy writing as part of my job doing publicity for a nonprofit organization. I even like writing fundraising letters. With each new assignment, the challenge is to find the right thoughts and how they they can be linked together and clothed with words in the most effective way, to express their unique essence to the reader.
But none of this makes me a “writer” in the way I wanted to be growing up. That means being accepted by a big publishing house and having thousands of copies of my work printed and read. To me, it’s more about connecting with a wide audience than about making lots of money (though that wouldn’t be bad). But what I write is not the kind of thing that gets published in that way.
I do publish a couple of pieces. I’ll never forget the thrill when I have an essay accepted by Interweave Knits, and shortly thereafter another one is taken by Parabola. A few more appear in online journals. It’s hard to fit this kind of writing and searching for appropriate publishing venues into my life, though. I try a few more times but then let it go.
A few years later, I start this blog without much thought of why I’m doing it. In my browsing I come across a few book blogs, and think “That looks like fun.” After I do a few posts and the readership of thousands doesn’t instantly materialize, I get discouraged. I almost quit. But then I become fascinated by the challenge of building an audience, making connections, expressing my personal thoughts in a way that resonates with others.
Now, after two years, I think I know why I’m doing this. I do have the irresistible drive to write, but it’s not to write novels. I don’t get paid for it, but in return I have the freedom to write whatever I want, and the pleasure of seeing it read and appreciated by many, if not thousands. I would love for it to turn into the kind of writing that could be conventionally published, but that may never happen.
Am I a writer? I think I am, but not in the way I expected. I’m doing something I love, and that’s what matters.
Do you think of yourself as a writer? What does that mean to you?