Thursday, February 10, 2011

The identity of a writer

It was August 1999, and I walked into my Creative Writing class. It was my first writing English major course. I was thrilled and tormented at the same time. As a lover (by that, I mean, obsessed) of all things grammar, an English degree seemed like the logical choice. However, I felt that I was not a writer. I didn't just sit around thinking up cool plot lines for a book. If I did, my red pen (AKA, my brain) was always nearby to promptly mark through the bad sentence structure. How could I be a writer, if I couldn't write anything original?

I found a seat in the middle row. I looked around the room. I felt like I didn't belong. In each chair, sat students that clearly stayed up too late thinking up the next NY Times best sellers. Then, there's me... notebooks all neatly stacked, all necessary writing utensils (pencil, pen, and highlighter) in a neat row, and a printed syllabus covered with a sticky-note or two with questions for the professor.

Could everyone tell I was a fake? I couldn't write. I have an amazingly, awesome family that has always encouraged me at everything I did. So, I knew these thoughts were not from my childhood. Looking back, it was my fear of failure. At any rate, I thought, "Should I drop this class to save myself the misery?" No, (I'm also a deeply stubborn girl) I won't let my crazy thoughts win.

The Lord knew what I needed because He sent a professor from Minnesota (that's were my Mom was born)... even went to the same college as my grandparents. He had a very clear Minnesotan accent, which my family can enact at any moment. He also taught me to value the North Carolinian accent as being unique and worth studying. At any rate, this was an unconventional professor. We didn't have a textbook but we did have to share our own writing in class. Ugh, my heart sank the day I had to share mine. I was NOT looking forward to sharing it!

To make matters worse, he always suggested that we help our fellow writers after they shared their work. I'm sure NO one would even know where to begin. Well, I don't really remember too much about what I wrote or read, just that no one really said much of anything. No surprise there! My professor then said, as if cutting to the heart of the matter, "Are you a slow writer?" I took it as the same as a "slow reader." I stumbled for words, tried to deny it, and reluctantly asked for more clarification. After he asked a few more questions about my writing, I realized that my self-sabotaging style of writing was indeed "slow writing." Well, at least, he knows now. It was an awful class. Could we please hurry things along here!!? I'm ready to get outta here. I didn't want to go back, but I am not a quitter.

A few classes later, he wanted us to take a moment and write a positive note to a person in class that made a difference for them. Ok, that was never a problem. The problem was just in figuring out which novelist to choose. So, I wrote my note and turned it in. While we were working on another assignment, he sorted through the notes and proceeded to hand the notes to the recipients. He handed out a few and then brought a huge stack to me. What?!! This had to be a mistake? I'm the fraud; don't you remember? As I turned to my classmates, they were all smiling. Maybe they knew I needed some encouragement, but they were all my personal cheerleaders that day. I was so humbled and honored that they noticed me. The notes ranged from: she's very professional to she always has something nice to say. I wish I could say I became a writer that day. But it did make my day and week. I'm still learning how to be a writer. It did lead me to research more careers in writing. And, hey, I found out that there was such a thing as a Technical Writer (creating, editing, testing, or reorganizing technical manuals), and it matched my personality exactly (no sarcasm, honest)!

More recently, I watched the movie Julie & Julia (about a struggling writer starting a blog about Julia Child's cookbook). When Julie realizes that she may actually become a published writer, she says to her husband, "I'll finally be a writer." He calmly looks at her and says, "You are a writer." Those lines meant a lot to me.

I am a writer because I am writing, not whether or not I am published.

My main reason for starting this blog was to share tips that have helped me save money and sanity in my home. However, the added bonus is that I am discovering that I do have a love for composition. I guess it's just another one of those "Almost On Purpose" things. 

Thanks for reading!


  1. Yes! You ARE a writer and your style is your own. No one wants a copycat! You are awesome :-)

  2. Wow... thanks so much for your encouragement. You have been a HUGE inspiration to me!

  3. I love this. You ARE a writer because you WRITE. Thanks for this insight and encouragement. :)

  4. A great post for any beginning writer - lots of inspiration. It's definitely worth reading as we're starting our own blog ( Katy and I were both journalism majors, but the only journalism we're doing now is keeping a blog! That's a whole new debate - are bloggers journalists? That conversation could drag on forever!

  5. Chris, thanks for stopping by. In today's tech-savvy world, it seems that many journalist do keep blogs. The controversy lies in the editorial process, but I like that a blog comes across more raw and unfiltered -- real. Yes, I agree the conversation and debate will continue for some time. If you know anything about golf, the USGA requires the players to be accountable for their own scores and integrity. To me, that is the same as the bloggers-as-journalists argument. With that said, if writing a blog is an outlet to improve your journalistic skills, I say, "Go for it! Keep writing!"