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In Which the Writer Fills Out a Form

I've been writing for years.  Even if I only count the years of "this is getting sorta serious, aiming for publication," it's been a long time.  In that time--about a decade--I never identified myself publicly as a writer.

I thought of myself that way--if I had to pick a few words that make up my personal self-portrait, "writer" would be one of them.  But I didn't introduce myself that way to other people, or talk about it on Facebook or in those polite small-talk conversations at parties. Some close friends knew that I wrote steadily; a few knew where I was in the long, circling road to publication.  I suppose, if you cornered me, I didn't feel like I'd earned that moniker--I hadn't sold a book, I couldn't claim it as a profession, I wasn't "really" a writer in a way that the world at large would understand.

Which is fine--this isn't one of those empowering posts about owning who you are and claiming the name "Writer" for yourself.  You do it when you're ready and when you think it's right.

Except now...I *have* to start owning it, and seriously, it's awkward.

I have to fill out forms and decide if I put "author" in the "occupation" slot.  (Right now I feel like I should write "lactating" in the occupation slot, but that's another story.)

When I meet new people, I have to decide if I answer "I'm a novelist" when they ask what my profession is.  (Ever notice how that's usually the first question, unless you happen to be somewhere where it's pretty self-explanatory, like a conference or a stay-at-home-moms play group and even then, it's "What do you specialize in?" or "What did you do in your BK (Before Kids) era?"

Even insurance--my husband was getting a new quote that included liability, and was asked if either of us was a "public figure."  He did the cover-the-phone-stage-whisper "Do you count?" (I don't count.  But I've never had to consider that question before.  Or the ramifications of that question...I just want to write books, but being marginally successful doing so means a certain level of Being Known, albeit in a small circle.  Still, strange.)

The first person I (sort of) confidently answered "I'm a writer" was my midwife, and the response--genuine interest, questions about the work as though it was any other occupation--was reassuring.  This thing which had become a huge part of my life but stayed almost completely private fits into the outside world.

I want to be clear--I'm incredibly excited to be publishing my work.  I'm more grateful for this opportunity than you can imagine--but it also means some transition in how I think about writing and how that part of my life interacts with the world.

And crossing out my answers on forms a lot.


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