A Writer By Any Other Name

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

 

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.

Find Jillian on Twitter

Or on Facebook!

Read more of Jillian here at OTV:  The Happy Housewife’s Guide to a Tidy HomeI Feel Bad for the BullNo ComplaintsOf Pot Roast and Politics

 

28 thoughts on “A Writer By Any Other Name

    1. Charles, having the courage to repulse readers is critical to being a writer. That’s another reason I can’t call myself a writer. I’m sure I do repulse readers but I never would do so intentionally. Thanks for your response. Oh. Off the Wall is currently out of print but I do have a stockpile. If you message me through Facebook, I’ll make sure to get you a copy.

      Like

  1. I beg to differ. You are a writer, you are free to call yourself anything, but you are a writer. And from what I have seen a darned good writer, too. I raise my coffee cup and toast your writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It does seem that actually claiming the identity of “Writer” (note the capitalization – very important) has higher stakes than I considered. I think I’ll stick with “a reader who sometimes manages to write something”. Reading stuff like this is way more fun than making work of writing.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It occurred to me today that my main current genre may be blog comments, taking off on free writes in response to blog posts. Interesting things do turn up that way.

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  3. Grace VanderWaal, who won America’s Got Talent in 2016 at age 12 and was signed by Columbia records, said at her AGT audition that her friends didn’t know she liked to sing.

    Months later after her first EP was released and hit #9 on the music charts in the US and #11 in Canada after winning two major music awards, at age 13, she said she’d heard too many of her peers in 5th or 6th grade bragging about being singers and she didn’t want anyone to see her as someone bragging about being a singer so she didn’t go around telling people she loved to sing.

    Have you heard the original song she wrote and sang that was used for a Windex commercial on YouTube?

    She’s still 13 and her first album (all original songs she wrote) is scheduled to be out this November 3rd. Her first concert tour is already sold out. It sold out in the first week.

    If you watch this, I suggest a box of tissues for catching those happy tears.

    I don’t think she has to tell anyone she’s a singer and songwriter now.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I detect a bit of irony in your post, Jillian. You’ve put your fingers on the pulse of the composite of insecurities all of us WRITERS feel when we commit to the discipline. Each of us sees himself at moments when two articulate words can’t be strung together; the same person sees herself at the moment the magical commingling of syllables seem to form unassisted on the page, so powerfully so that she begins to believe in channeling. Yet we are both embarrassingly in the same skin. And the magic is admittedly rare, so we let the inarticulateness define our self-image.

    All in all, you’ve written a brilliantly entertaining (or entertainingly brilliant) coda for anyone who right hand pinky-promises to his left hand that he will remain creatively loyal through the days of self-doubt … knowing–because there seems a residual memory–that there will follow moments of magic when she knows she is a writer.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think you wrote this from inside my own head and heart, voicing exactly what lives there. I think even more that you have probably given voice to what ALL writers think and feel, at least at some point. Really awesome on this one, Jillian. xo

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  6. You are a writer. I hope you’ll claim the name. Think of a writer as one who gets visits from the Muse, always on her terms, not on yours. So I am a writer. Do I like what I write every time? No. Does the Muse visit every day or when I snap my fingers? No. But slowly, over the last 10 years, I’ve claimed my avocation and passion–and the risks of never being good enough. Still, I am a writer. So are you.

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