You’ve all been in this situation before. You meet someone for the first time, in a casual acquaintance type of way. It might be at a party or it might be meeting another parent when you’re picking your kid up from school. Whatever. And they ask you what you do.
Here’s the thing. When people ask me, I never say I’m a writer. Not ever. I say I’m a web designer.
And I am a web designer, of course. I love that part of my life. Building websites is great. It’s fun, it’s challenging, it’s stimulating, it’s satisfying, and I’m good at it. But it’s not the thing I’m most passionate about. It’s not the thing I dreamed about from, oh, the beginning of high school. (The web didn’t exist back then...) What I always dreamed about was being a writer.
But the truth is, I’m embarrassed to say I’m a writer. I figure that if I do, people are going to ask what books I’ve got out, and I haven’t published any books. I’ve only published short stories. Most people never read short stories. I think that if I call myself a writer, people will think I’m deluding myself. They’ll think I’m full of it.
When someone does get out of me that I’m a writer (usually because my wife tells them), I say I “just” write short stories (or “only short stories”, like I realized I did in the paragraph above), as though somehow they’re not worth mentioning.
But the truth is, I’m damned proud of those short stories. I worked long and hard at them. Editors were willing to pay money for them and print them in their magazines and anthologies. Some of these are really good stories.
If I add up the money I’ve been paid for my short stories, it comes to at least the same amount as the average advance for a first novel, probably more. My stories have reached far more people than most first novels ever do.
And here’s another thing. By not saying that I’m a writer, I’m deprioritizing my own writing. I’m telling myself every time that the writing is not the most important part of my career. I’m telling myself that the time I have for work should always be for web design, and that if I spend some of it writing, I’m doing the wrong thing. That writing time is wasted time.
So, I’ve decided to make a new New(ish) Year’s resolution: I’m going to start saying I’m a writer when people ask what I do. I’m going to say I’m a web designer too, but that’s not all I’m going to say, because it’s not all I do.
And maybe, just maybe, that’ll make me give the writing the priority it deserves.