Back when I was contemplating quitting my job and becoming freelance writer, I fantasized about what it would be like to say, “I’m a writer.” But the first time someone asked me, “So, what do you do?” I was so nervous that the words got snagged in my throat and I said it like I was embarrassed. OK, I was embarrassed.
I’m not a real writer, I thought. Sure, I write a few things, but other times I lie in bed and eat a whole bag of pita chips while watching The Bachelor.
Thankfully, this exchange happened at bar in which everyone was dressed in ugly Christmas sweaters (myself included, it was a themed event), so my apprehension was probably swallowed by the loud music and cans of Tecate everywhere.
But it bothered me, of course, and for several days afterward.
What was I so afraid of? The opinion of some guy in a bright green sweater with sewn-in flashing Christmas lights? (Seriously. And I was the one who was embarrassed…)
I am a writer. Not an aspiring writer. Not a wannabe writer. A real, live writer. No, I don’t have a Pulitzer on my mantel or bylines in The Atlantic. But I’m still a writer, and I was going to sabotage my dream if I didn’t start acting like one.
Not to mention, to get that Pulitzer, or that Atlantic byline, or to tag along with Brad Pitt through the Himalayas, I have to start by declaring, “I’m a writer.” My first declaration was scribbled on a post-it note and tacked to my bulletin board. My second declaration, however, was more coincidental.
A few weeks after my self-conscious tongue-trip at the ugly Christmas sweater party, I went skiing with friends and ran into Electric Boogaloo Sweater Man in the rental shop (sans ugly sweater, of course). “You’re the writer, right?” he asked.
I looked him in the eye, put a smile on my face, and said, “Yup, that’s me.”