A Writer? Who Me?

One of my favorite places to write is on airplanes.  I love sitting next to a window, getting out my laptop, praying that the chair in front of me doesn’t recline, and typing away happily while sipping on my complimentary beverage.  Maybe it’s the cabin pressure, or a lack of oxygen, or the aforementioned complimentary beverage, but for some reason, I come up with especially good stuff on airplanes. 

On one such occasion (several years ago), I was intently focused on my task and my beverage, when my overly talkative seatmate interrupted me to ask me a question (don’t you just love that).   This particular woman was obviously intrigued by the rapid fire typing going on in the seat next to her (when I get going, I average around 90 wpm…which probably explains my high word counts).  The woman leaned over and asked, “Are you a writer?”

The question was innocent enough. However, you might be surprised at my response:  “Oh no, I’m not a writer.” Providing ample evidence to the contrary, I proceeded to continue typing at the speed of light, attempting to ignore her.

I was operating under the assumption that in order to be a writer, first of all, you had to be very cool.  I, for one, hadn’t yet attained coolness; therefore, I wasn’t a writer.  Next, in my strange little world, to be a writer, you had to earn a living by selling your words.  I was a student at the time and making zero money at anything, except maybe picking berries during summer break. 

To this day, I struggle with the label “writer.”  You’ll find me hard pressed to identify myself as a writer.  Earlier this week, I was explaining to someone what I am doing with my life these days, now that I’m on summer break, and I caught myself stumbling over the words: “I’m…um…just…um…writing…ur…yeah.”  It was painful.   

Maybe when I’m cool enough, I’ll own up to it.  Until then, be prepared for some pretty awkward introductions:  “Meet my friend Amy—don’t ask her what she does because she hasn’t convinced herself about it yet.”

Published in: on May 24, 2007 at 4:19 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. This is an interesting topic to me: People who play the piano, spending hours practicing, and entertaining a few folks without pay can say they are a pianist, right?
    Or do they have to just say they “play the piano” but are not pianist until someone requests that they play and pays them?

    I am a milliner; I have made many hats, yet shrunk away from saying I was a milliner until someone bought a hat that I had made. Then I was still shy…one hat was’t enough. How many hats would be enough? Finally a friend said: You make hats, therefore you are a milliner. Period. (And a dang good one too….)

    Have you heard of National Novel Writing Month? If someone writes a 120 page story, that has a reasonable beginning, middle and end, doesn’t that make him/her a novelist? (quibble: novellaist?) Or an author? At the very least, a writer? Once they are paid, maybe then they would add “published” author. If they totally support themselves by writing, then “professional writer.”

    I wish more people would be willing to play the piano badly, make problematic hats, and write dreadful novels, just to try, to risk it. Then they could see ways to get better. No one plays a concerto, or makes a Kentucky Derby Museum hat, or gets on the NYT best seller list the first try. But every concerto, KDM milliner, and NYTBSL had a first day, a first try. And they learned if they had a passion for it.

  2. I was wondering about all those hats on your site! I think the word millinery is one of the neatest words I’ve encountered in awhile!

    It’s interesting that people who do artsy things don’t necessarily have to make a living at it or earn money at it to be considered a “writer, milliner, painter, photographer, etc.” But, say, take a plumber. I don’t think you’d call someone a plumber unless that’s what they’ve done for pay before or professionally, at least once in their life. Probably the same goes for electricians.

    I’m not sure I’d want someone who dabbled in electricity once and awhile without the “professional” qualifications tinkering in my home’s wiring. Same goes for my toilet and a plumber. I wouldn’t want him messing with my wiring either. hehe.

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