Saturday, February 11, 2012

Keeping It Real

Today I am most fortunate to have a guest post from the lovely Sherry Isaac. She is an award-winning writer whose work sometimes takes her to unexpected places. Read on to see whether or not we can all truly call ourselves writers...
E R, the two most important letters to a writer. Er can mean a lot of things to those who have chosen this profession called writing. Or has the profession chosen us?

Er, what should I blog about?
Er, should I open my WIP, or watch Grey’s Anatomy?
Er, how will I build my platform? Er, should I build a website or blog? Er, plotter, or pantster?
But the great E R is also a suffix. By definition, one who writes is a writER. That is how the English language is constructed. One who paints is a painter, one who counts is a counter, one who kisses is a kisser. The act of doing makes one a doer.
So why is it that when a new, as yet unpublished writer confesses their craft, she is asked to support her claim with a published book.
No matter how much talent or promise, no matter how many years spent learning the craft, no matter how many queries are made, no matter how many partials or fulls are requested, no matter how close she has come, if a book can not be found on a shelf in the local bookstore with her name in bold letters on the cover, the pronouncement is made.
“Oh, you’re not a real writer,” comes the verdict, through lips so pinched the speaker might be sucking on lemons.
I’m not?
Then from where, pray tell, did the reams and reams of printed pages in my office come from?
Embracing the phrase, I am a writer, is a risk. The confession opens us up to scrutiny, people ask for proof, so until you score that NYT label, you may want to tread carefully, and be selective about whom you share your profession with.
Ray Bradbury, in his address to to The Point Loma Nazarene University, shared this bit of advice:
“Get rid of friends who don’t believe in you.”
Well. we may not have to go so far as getting rid of friends. (I surely won’t. Nerd that I am, friends are hard to come by!)
Some friends will come around, and learn to respect your title. They may become your greatest cheerleaders. But you may want to prepare yourself, and appreciate that some friends can only see you for who you are on their terms, not yours.
So, what does this mean? Should you keep who you are a secret?
No way.
The proclamation, I am a writer, can give you wings, validation, and the attitude shift to take you from amateur to professional. It can take you from wishing you might be published to knowing you will be. It can sit your butt in the chair and do the work. As writer, you create the characters, construct the journey, build new worlds.
And isn’t that what the job is all about?
Raised by Nancy Drew and Jane Marple, Alice Munro Short Story Award winner and Maggie Finalist Sherry Isaac’s novels and short stories weave the common thread of everyday life, love and forgiveness into tales that transcend all things, including the grave. Find Sherry on the web, follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook and read her blog posts at Romance & Beyond.

Thanks Sherry! I feel so....VALIDATED...What do you guys think? Do you ever introduce yourself as a writer? or an artist? or a musician? And is it a comfortable fit?


  1. Enjoyed your post, Sherry! This is so true. If you mention you're a writer of course the next question is--where can I buy the book? Um, well, I'm in the submission process, you say...and you get the nod and usually a deflated "Oh."
    Feels crummy sometimes. This is why we appreciate our supporters--largely other writers--and those who cheer us on when it literally can take years to grab the publishing ring.

    One thing I've learned is-never give up. Surround yourself with positive people and reach for the stars. Even if some wrinkle their nose and don't get why we're not there yet.

  2. Well said, Sherry! I struggle with this -- and I have a traditionally published book! After you have a book, then they start picking on your publisher ("Never heard of them" or "Oh, your self-published") or your marketing ("I didn't notice your book last time I was in..." or "I didn't see your book in the flyer for....") or your sales. Sigh...I wouldn't say any of that to my doctor or dentist or hair stylist....

  3. Marian and Carrie...
    It does seem that no matter what we do, someone always sets the bar that much higher. Thanks for checking out the post and for your positive feedback!

  4. Hi Marian!

    I hear ya!

    In many ways, IMHO, writing is like being discovered as a musician or actor. If you're not in a move or on the radio, you must not be not be very good. It is a long hard road to publication.
    If we knew it would be so hard, would we have started this journey?
    I've yet to meet a writer who doesn't answer, YES!

  5. Hi Carrie, thanks for sharing your Saturday.

    Ah, can the reading public not appreciate that we aren't all Steven Kings and Stephenie Meyers? We are not all represented by Donald Maass, or published by Random House.

    My short story collection was published by a small press, and I always get the 'Are you self-published' question.

  6. What a great post! I am still in the little sheltered world of not telling anyone. But I don't really talk about my regualr job, either, because both are things that people just can't understand.

    Now, with my writer's group I am proud to stand up and wave my flag. On blogs, and with writer-friends... no problem.

    Someday "everyone else" will understand. Until then, I am hiding in my little closet.

  7. Yo, Jennifer,

    Actively participating in the writing community is a proclamation in itself. Wave that flag, girlfriend! WOOT!

  8. Words to live - er - write by. Don't get me started on a worder, writer, wonderer string. Too late!

    I LOVE the E R opening snark, and blown away by your assertion that saying "I am a writer" gives wings to our dreams.

    After that? It's hard work. It's learning the craft. It's surrounding ourselves with writing buddies who rock our writerly world.

    Off to TWEET it out to the world.

  9. Ah, Gloria, the dreamer, the glower, the friender, the tweeter... she is all things good and goodererer, and a damn fine writer, too. Love the snark that weaves through your manuscript.

    Thanks for not blowing the whistle on my major ER, ProcrastinatER.

    (Typo allowed because O R is not the suffix of the day.)

  10. This post sums it up pretty nicely, thank you for sharing! I often waffle between introducing myself as a lawyer or a writer. The former seems to make everybody nervous, and the latter gets the little condescending smile and an "Oh, that's nice."

    It's like Tim Ferriss once wrote (paraphrasing) - how can we possibly explain that what we do with our time and what we do for money are completely different things?

  11. You have just voiced my greatest weakness. I never introduce myself as a writer unless I'm going to talk with other writers or talk about my books. I know I need to OWN it more. :) It has been a great leap for me to talk about it so much on Facebook on my personal page. I am so insecure that someone is looking at it and thinking..."Sure, she says she's a writer."

  12. Oh, Stacy, I know that condescending smile. The
    'Oh, that's nice' tone reverberates down the spine with little needle-like teeth, don't it?

    Thanks for commenting, and thank you for the follow.

  13. Brinda, I am shocked! You, of the lyrical voice even when you are advising on all things techie? No way!

    Everyone, follow @BrindaBerry. Brinda is our guest on Romance & Beyond on Friday, February 17. Young love, a YA perspective.

  14. I feel exactly that way most of the time!

  15. Hello, Lori!

    Most writers I speak to feel this way, even after they've reached publication, so there you have it. If we feel what the real writers feel, then we must be real writers, too.

  16. Sometimes I feel like I belong at some sort of support group meeting. "Hi, my name is Amanda, and I'm a writer." :)

    I talk about writing ALL THE TIME. Everyone knows I do it, including my stylist, who I only see every two months when my hair looks like a disaster and needs to be saved. I have no problem with the "writer" label. The "author" label, on the other hand...I feel like that should be reserved for when I've got an ISBN to back it up.

  17. A friend once gave me a T-shirt immitating Rick Castle's mock FBI vest from Castle. It has WRITER across the front... and, although I loved the gift, I've never dared wear it! Kinda sums it up, really.

    Having said that, I'm happy enough to tell people I'm a writer, but I always downplay and qualify it by saying it's 'a hobby' or something equivalent.

    Like Amanda, I avoid 'author' completely for now... one day, perhaps!

  18. Great post, Sherry. For the most part my friends are supportive, but I do have to keep explaining that it is a long haul to publication. They all seem to know someone who's had a memoir or a cookbook published and they don't see why it's taking me so long. They don't understand that I'm taking the time to improve my craft, so I may have a writing career that actually pays one day.

  19. That's an interesting distinction, Amanda, and one I hadn't thought about. I have enough trouble admitting to being a writer. An author? Hmm.
    Thanks to everyone who's checked out the post!

  20. Amanda,

    Snort on the support group, but isn't that we build with our critique groups and our twitter/facebook/blog base?

    Andy you... You have the Rubber Duck Brigade!

    Hear ya on the hair. Nice to meet you, hope our circles will continue to ripple in each other's direction.

  21. Ellen, I love Castle. Pretty sure that was one of my 100 words. I would soooo wear that vest!

    Try baby-stepping 'author'. Whisper the word as you go to sleep. In the morning, between flossing your teeth, combing your hair and plucking the crusties from your eyes, look in the mirror and say the words.

    I am an author.

  22. Sharon!!!

    Everyone, meet Sharon Clare, my fabulous friend and critique partner.

    Time is such a huge factor, and probably the number one reason self-pub has such a bad wrap. So many authors who won't exercise the patience to hone their craft.

    But who will be left standing at the end of the day?

  23. Liv, thanks so much for having me as your Saturday guest. Must do it again sometime, and I shall reciprocate. Soon.

    You are a real writer, and now, as Amanda says, you have that ISBN to back you up!

  24. Hi Sharon! Nice to meet you. You have an excellent critique partner.
    And thank you, Sherry. You've been a delightful guest! Would love to have an appearance on your blog one day.

  25. It's take me a while to tell people 'I am a writer'. It even took a long time to tell my friends. But I'm ready to even tell strangers now. Although I still stutter when I tell them I write romance. I usually say 'brain candy' instead!

  26. Love this post, Sherry :)

    It took me a long time to say "I am a writer" but I own it now. I'm pretty sure it's all I'll ever say. It sounds pretentious to say "novelist" or "author" unless it's in a bio.

  27. So true, Sherry! Great post. I love the ER connection. The validation comes from within. (and a great critique group - you know who you are - doesn't hurt)

  28. L.A. Mitchell, AWARD WINNING AUTHOR, is in the house!

  29. Urve, the other third of our courageous critique group. Urve just signed her first book contract, YA Historical. A real, real writer!

  30. Sherry,

    I have the infinite honor to call you my friend. And yes, I am a writer! ;-))

  31. Carole,

    The honour is all mine, my friend, and...


    Thanks for stopping by, ma joli amie.