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01 January 2008 @ 06:08 pm
Coming out as a writer  
It seems fitting that on January 1st of what I hope will be a very good year, I acknowledge my hard-won and new-found identity: a writer.

Some people may say that, having written a book and been lucky enough to find a publisher, I am already a writer. That’s nice, and I’m grateful for the easy acceptance, but coming out, whether in its more familiar form of sexual identity or, in my case, a broader category, is just that: self-definition. And it has taken me many months of introspection to decide that, Yes, I have become a writer.

Why the lapse of time between the actual writing and the adoption of the identity? Mostly it’s to do with why I wrote Phyllida in the first place. I didn’t think of it as “writing,” in the way that so many of the great writers have known from childhood that that’s who they were, that’s what they wanted to do. No, I wrote this story because it was a way to express my innermost self and desires, as I couldn’t by just living or being, and in the form that I enjoy most: an entertaining, absorbing novel. I did want to write it well, because that matters more to me than anything when I read: the author’s style, the way he or she engages me with character and narrative so that I become oblivious to everything else and just experience the story, unaware that what I am doing is reading in the deepest sense and that the person who is giving me this wonderful gift is in fact a writer.

It is frequently said, half humorously (and by me in all seriousness), that there will soon be more writers than readers. What has brought about this change? The computer, of course. Nowadays, in order to put one’s strung-together words out there for others to read, we don’t have to be accepted by a publisher or pass the inspection of an editor. We can blog and keep online journals to our hearts’ content, “self-publish” and subsidy publish and print-on-demand. Please note that I am not criticizing, merely defining. After all, I was one of those subsidy-published POD people myself at this time last year.

Just because I typed words into a computer, words that will soon be “printed” in some way onto paper and bound into books that will be sold, among other places, in bookstores, didn’t immediately make me feel that I had joined the exalted ranks of writers. There is a great deal of typing into computers that does not, in my dictionary, qualify as actual “writing.” Sexy or sensational content alone does not turn boring, badly constructed and unreadable prose into writing. A blog, a journal or memoir is not necessarily writing, although of course there are many excellent ones being written every day, by genuine, gifted writers.

But sometime during the past two months, going through the “refiner’s fire” of copy editing and proofreading, and, most important, writing the essay for the back of the book that will explain the history behind the story, I discovered that I was beginning to feel like a writer. The turning point came when I finished the essay, knew that it was good, and had my opinion confirmed by my editor. Yes, I thought. I can do this. It’s not just what I do—it’s who I am.

I invite all of you who have made it all the way through this New Year’s Day post: please raise a glass of, by this time, Hair-of-the-Dog of your choice and celebrate with me. I am a writer. And I thank you for being my readers. You have given me the greatest gift of all: Confirmation.
 
 
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