I don’t remember when I started saying “I’m a writer” instead of “I write stuff.” It can’t have been more than a few years ago. Saying “I’m a writer” seemed arrogant somehow, or at the very least presumptuous. Never mind the fact that I knew I wanted to write since I was in second grade, knew I wanted to write for children and young adults since I was in sixth, and had gone halfway across the country to major in writing. I think by the time I went to grad school for even more writing education and opportunities, I had started to claim the title, but I was still somewhat tentative about it. I felt like that claim needed some proof behind it, and in a way, I wasn’t totally wrong. The proof didn’t have to be out there in bookstores, though. I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone else. In order to claim that I was a writer, I had to write. And as the years went by, I wrote. A lot.
I’m not tentative about saying I’m a writer anymore.
There were still terms I shied away from, though. “Author,” for example, felt like a word that belonged to people who could hold their books in their hands. Then of course there’s the phrase “writing career,” which I’ve only spoken aloud with the accompaniment of sarcastic jazz hands and a nervous laugh. How long I have lusted after the unironic utterance of that phrase, though. During Awkward Home Summer, I requested for my parents to stop differentiating between “work” and “writing” in favor of “paid work” and “work.” They’re my parents, I figured. They won’t mind if I’m pretentious about it.
Here’s what I think we should tell ourselves as writers, though: go for it. If you treat it like work, claim it as your work. As your career. Writing has been my career for a while now. I proved that to myself when I proved that I was, in fact, a writer.
Today I had a conversation in which the words “author” and “career” were used without a trace of irony. I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I will be working with Carrie Howland, a literary agent with Donadio & Olson, Inc. Thanks to my perfect and wonderful friend Susan, who let me follow her around when I was a terrified puppy of a new grad student and who hasn’t stopped brightening my life since, The Children’s War (a.k.a. Story) made its way to Carrie’s desk. I was blown away by Carrie’s enthusiasm and excitement for my writing, and I can’t wait to get started on our work together. I feel like this manuscript that I care so much about is in excellent hands. For my part, I can promise that I will be a diligent, responsive, and obnoxiously earnest client. This is, after all, my career, and I really love my work.