What strikes me about this amusing little anecdote is not so much its humor (though there is plenty to be found), but its earnestness. This little girl sees her mother as a writer, a writer with the power to create her own salvation, or to doom herself with her own negligence. What a wonderful gift, to be seen as such a powerful woman by someone who loves you!
Writing is at the heart of my friend's identity. It is what she loves, who she is, and that simple "being" reflects in her daughter's attitudes and opinions.
But what about the rest of us? I am but one of a flood of unpublished amateurs out in murky waters wondering whether I will ever be comfortable enough to call myself a writer. I work an ordinary day job, where I push papers and manage administrative "emergencies" on a day-to-day basis. Those tasks pay my bills, but they do not define who I am. When meeting new people, I introduce myself by name and job title. Their primary understanding of my identity comes from my place of employment. And usually, I allow the misconception.
When I was teaching high school band, we had a saying we would tell our students when performance anxiety took over: "F.I.B. - Fake It, Baby!" We didn't need their confidence. We just needed them to act like they had it. Funny how that works. As many of them learned to fib, to fake their way through the paces, they actually got better. What had been holding them back was neither talent nor lack of discipline, but fear. They just needed to push through, to put on an air of confidence until some magical day when they actually had it.
For a long time I considered writing a hobby. It was this task I did in my spare time that brought me pleasure, but it was not something to be proud of, to tell my family about, to post about in blogs or chat rooms. It was just something that I did under the cover of darkness, when I was too emotionally wrought to express myself in any other way.
But what happens when hobby becomes vocation? When you begin waking each morning planning your writing day, or going to bed each night hoping your dreams will bring you new ideas for the next day? What happens then? How do you burst from the closet with fountain pen in hand and say "Guess what? I'm a writer!"?
Maybe fibbing is the key to making that transition, to going from a hobbyist to someone proud of a chosen vocation (whether or not it ever pays us a dime).
Bryan Hutchinson argues that, as writers, fear is not our enemy:
"On the contrary, courage, confidence and even so called fearlessness are the results of facing, embracing and finally, dancing with your fears."
~Bryan Hutchinson, PositiveWriter.com
His point is that we need not be fearless. We only must keep writing anyway. I believe we have to take it a step further. We have to share that writing with others, even through the fear. When we meet someone at a party, we can't limit ourselves to saying "I am a sales associate" or "I am a homemaker" or "I'm a contractor." For many of us our day jobs are only a way to pay the bills. Let's act like it, ignore the fear, and tell it like it really is--even if we don't believe it yet.
I'm Amalie Cantor, and I'm a writer. Who are you?