By Jillian Green DiGiacomo
I never call myself a writer.
Sure, I write. I write all kinds of stuff.
I write essays and novels, kids’ books, and poetry.
I even have a one act play in the works.
So I do write, a lot.
But when I meet someone for the first time and they ask, “What do you do?”
My answer is not an unflinching, unapologetic, “I’m a writer.”
Instead, I say, “I’m mostly home with my kids and I write when I can.” Or
“I used to be a teacher but now I’m having fun writing.”
But I do not come straight out and say, “I’m a writer.”
I cannot define myself with those words.
I cannot say them out loud, to another human being.
I can’t even jot the word ‘writer’ on a medical form
on that line that demands to know my occupation.
Don’t get me wrong.
I’d love to say it.
I’d love to shout it down the frozen food aisle.
And I’d feel a great sense of relief to let my dermatologist know that I lied when I panicked and scribbled “horticulturalist” on my patient intake form.
But I cannot do it.
I cannot call myself a writer.
When I say that I write, it means that writing is something I do.
But to say, “I am a writer” would mean that “writer” is the thing that I am.
And that scares me.
If the very thing that I am is a writer,
the stakes go way up and the safety net falls away.
Right now, a rejection of my work is understandable. I am not a writer.
A poorly constructed argument is forgivable. I am not a writer.
An extended period without a story idea is perfectly reasonable. I am not a writer.
An inconclusive conclusion is permissible. I am not a writer.
If I were to call myself a writer,
if I were to stand up and boldly own the designation,
I could no longer hide my hopes, my dreams, or my failures.
If I were a writer, I would have to be fearless.
I would have to go there in my writing. I would have to push my writing there
because there is the only destination worth reaching if you are a writer.
But going there might mean repulsing potential readers or disappointing my mother.
If I were a writer, would I be more scared of success then failure?
Would I be more afraid of fame then anonymity?
Would I be too paralyzed to start for fear of an inability to finish?
If I were a writer, would the pressure to write weigh so heavily that I couldn’t write at all?
I don’t know.
But if I were a writer, I would write every day.
I would trust that my best writing is still ahead of me.
I would never run out of ideas.
I would trust my own judgment.
I would put myself along with my writing out there to be judged.
I would face my fear.
To Hell with fear!
But I’m terrified to call myself a writer.
So, I don’t.
Jillian Green DiGiacomo grew up in a New Jersey suburb and currently lives in a New Jersey suburb (though not the same suburb). Once upon a time, she graduated with a degree in Asian studies from Vassar College and received a Master’s in education from Harvard University. Before having children, she spent most of her time either teaching English in Japan or teaching Japanese to high school students in New York. After having children, she completely forgot how to speak Japanese and has a hard time with English most days.
Now that her kids are grown enough to not want to spend any time with her but young enough that she is still required to feed them, Jillian has started teaching again – this time as an ESL teacher. And after 17 years of doing a pretty slack job of parenting, she is thrilled to remember that she actually is good at something.
Jillian’s award-winning novel, Codename Cupcake is a hilarious satire about motherhood, espionage, and the PTA. This work has been widely read by every member of her mother’s bridge group. Her children’s book, Off the Wall, was published by Story People Press in 2011.
This past year, Jillian discovered a love for writing short pieces and is grateful to Shareen and Kara for creating OTV and giving writers like her a beautiful platform through which to share their work.
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