When Did You Start Using the W-Word?

Monday, January 31, 2011

SETTING: Expansive office with a huge desk.

TV EXECUTIVE: God, I hate these pitch sessions for the next season. Next!

ME: Hi, I’m Jodi Webb. I’d like to pitch a reality show called “No Excuses”.

TV EXECUTIVE: Like the title. So what does it have? Bigamy, public drunkenness, backstabbing, romantic triangles?

ME: Writers.

TV EXECUTIVE: Of course, all reality shows have writers.

ME: No, I mean it’s ABOUT writers.

TV EXECUTIVE: OK, this could work. Writers have scandal. Who was that memoir guy who lied on Oprah? Didn’t Poe die in a drunk in a ditch somewhere?

ME: Ummm, the Oprah guy was James Frey and Poe actually died in a hospital but I think we’re getting off track here…

TV EXECUTIVE: OK, rewind. Writers, what about them?

ME: I thought we could follow them around as they go to cocktail parties, the PTA, Zumba class, their class reunion and when people ask them what they do they actually say, “I am a writer.”

TV EXECUTIVE: Because normally they say…

ME: Anything but! “I’m a teacher. I’m a coffee barista. I’m a mom. I’m retired.” Or this is a favorite, “I write a little but I’m not really a writer.” Nobody ever mentions the W-word, especially if they don’t have a book published with a big publisher.

TV EXECUTIVE: Well, if someone hasn’t published a book are they REALLY a writer?

ME: Excuse me, but who was the idiot who drew that line? If you’ve had a hundred magazine articles published aren’t you a writer? If your work is in an anthology aren’t you a writer? If you self-publish aren’t you a writer?

TV EXECUTIVE: Settle down there, missy. But isn’t being paid for your writing what makes you a writer?

ME: Being a writer isn’t about a paycheck. It’s a skill. It’s a state of mind. Those people that sing on American Idol aren’t getting paid—would you argue that they aren’t singers? OK, maybe not the weird people who can only sing in one key but...Then there’s Van Gogh. Didn’t he sell like two paintings while he was alive? He sure didn’t support himself with his paintings. Are you going to tell me Van Gogh wasn’t an artist? Emily Dickinson’s poems weren’t published until after her death? Not a poet? So why do we place a price tag on the label “writer”? People should be able to go out their in the world and say those four big words I – AM – A – WRITER with no explanations, no embarrassment, no excuses.

TV executive stands up and pushes a button that opens the office door.

TV EXECUTIVE: Without any sex we’re going to have to pass but…

Reaches into his bottom desk drawer, pulls out a manuscript, and hugs it to him.


Unfortunately, there will be no open auditions for No Excuses but we’d still like to know when did you start calling yourself a writer? And if you don’t, what goal will you have to meet to start referring to yourself with the W-word?

Jodi Webb started calling herself a writer after a customer told her "if she had stayed in school she'd have a better job". Find out more about that life-changing moment at Words by Webb.

ATTENTION: If you're looking for some exposure for your blog, contact Jodi about participating in the Everybody's Writing About...Surprises on March 16 at The Muffin. You and your readers could win fun prizes! More info at jodi@wow-womenonwriting.com .


abbe said...

I'm still working on it. I consider myself a writer but I have a hard time stating the fact to other people. I think my hesitation has something to do with not having a product to show. When I say "I'm a writer," people want to know what I've written. Having one and a half unfinished novels under my belt doesn't seem to convince them and any further conversation usually leads to an unpleasant argument about whether or not my writing has anything to do with Twilight. So, like I said, I'm working on it.

Margo Dill said...

Love this post!

Donna Volkenannt said...

Great post, Jodi.

I was always reluctant to call myself a writer. It sounded pretentions, and no matter how much I've done others have done more.
Then one Saturday a few years ago I was in the Dollar Tree buying a metal holder to use for a book signing for a Cup of Comfort book I had a story in. While waiting in line I got to talking to a woman and her monther. They commented on my book holder and asked what I was going to do with it. I told them about the book signing, and they said, "We've never met a real writer before." Then they asked me to sign their receipt, which I did.

After that encounter I felt more confident about calling myself a writer. I'm thinking I need to spend more time at the Dollar Tree.

Donna V.

Marie Rearden said...

This was a wonderful post.

I chose to write under a pen, and all my e-promotions use it. I want to call myself a writer, but I think of J. K. Rowling and Charlaine Harris when I think of writers. With nothing published and my query making the rounds, it's tough to put myself in that same category.

But I'm determined. :) Thanks for the encouragement.

Marie, http://marierearden.blogspot.com

Sioux Roslawski said...

I was walking out of a parking garage at Mizzou, heading to National Writing Project workshop. The parking garage, in a friendly way, inquired where we were going. When we told him, he then asked if we were writers. When we said that we were, his eyes lit up and a flood of desire poured forth...It seems he had always wanted to be a writer, and we had a delightful conversation.

I think if more of us "writers" wore a button on our lapel that said, "I'm a writer," we would be amazed at the result. People would open up and tell their life stories. And perhaps we would start holding our head a bit higher as we proclaim: "I am a writer!"

eliana23 said...

It is so scary to admit this thing that is close to your heart and allows the chance of shattered dreams in...but I hope I can someday be brave enough to say I AM A WRITER without equivocation.

Fun post, thanks.


Unknown said...

Since retiring from teaching a bit early, now, is the time to go towards that dimension. Writing here I come!

Cayla Kluver said...

I had to force myself to start using the W-word. In my head I always viewed myself as a writer but whenever you say it aloud you get the skeptical eyebrow. Like, "Oh yes, she's a WRITER everyone!" It's annoying because published writers get it too -- they're in the position of having to prove they're real writers. If it weren't for the necessity of self-promotion, I'd go on a sort of strike and tell everyone with the utmost confidence that I am a writer, and follow up with that I haven't published a damn thing. Alas! But what a fantastic post. :)

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