Identities

[Two posts in two days? Anyone would think it was a bank holiday weekend.]

Yesterday I posted something quite long which I had intended to link to on my twitter account, which is linked to my other life, the dayjob, because people who follow me there might be interested. But I didn’t, and it was because of a slight crisis of ‘do I have the right to call myself a writer?’

This isn’t a secret blog, and my name is the same as it always is, so anyone who knows me otherwise and stumbles across this, will know it’s me. But I still wasn’t sure about directly telling people about it.

Can I claim to be a writer? I haven’t published a novel, or a non-fiction book, and although I have more credits than appear on the ‘published work’ tab (mostly because I’m bad at going backwards in time), it’s not like I’m missing anything major. And I suppose at least part of the dayjob involves writing.

One of my new colleagues asked me the other day if I wrote poetry. I was so surprised I’d admitted I did. Then he asked if I’d had any published. To which I said yes, again. Then he asked if he could read any. To which I said no. I felt extremely embarrassed. It’s as if it’s easy to send out work to people who may reject it or judge it badly if they don’t know you, but the idea of being face to face with someone knowing they’ve read your work, and who knows you know they’ve read your work… brrr, shivers up the spine.

It took a long time to admit that what I wanted to do was write. Even though everyone else who’d ever met me knew that. Setting up this blog and claiming to be ‘a writer’ was another step forward. So why do I feel like I’m justified claiming to be a writer?

Well, there are different pathways to that identity. One is publication. I am published, in fairly minor ways, in various places, but I think that I would follow Andrew Cowan (in the previous post) in saying publication = book. You can call yourself an author (or a poet) when you have a book or a publishing deal.

Another is counting something else – spondulicks. I make a reasonable supplement to my income by writing. Mostly I make money by writing non-fiction educational materials, but I did earn £6 from selling poems last financial year (and let’s face it, in terms of poetry, that puts me in the 1% 😉 ). I realised that I probably had the right to call myself a writer on this basis when filling in a survey sent round by women’s writing magazine Mslexia which asked me how much I make from writing each year. When I looked back at my income I realised that I make a substantial proportion of my dayjob salary all over again from writing. Not enough to make me rich, and certainly now I’m wondering how on earth I managed to squander it all! But enough to validate this: I am a writer. I’m an academic too, but I’m a writer.

So why can’t I let people know that?

 

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