I recently read an article in Poets and Writers magazine, in which the author talks about the need for writers to always identify themselves as such, no matter what their day job. She writes about the negative connotations that are sometimes evoked by declaring oneself a "writer," especially if one has a dearth of accolades and published works to back up such an assertion. I considered all the times people ask me what I "do." I reply with a sardonic chuckle that I'm a corporate peon. I almost never tell anyone I'm a writer. Why not? Why not own my dream? Why not name something I am proud of?
Here's why: because I'm scared shitless. I'm scared of admitting that I want to be a writer, but having nothing to show for it. I'm scared of coming off as an artist flake who doesn't have a grasp on reality. I'm scared that people I know will read my posts and think me frivolous and self-absorbed (what writer isn't the latter, at least a little bit?). I'm scared that I'll say I want to be a published writer and fail at it. I contemplated all of this as I finished reading the P&W article and thought, Okay, I'm scared. So what?
Something clicked in my head, and I added the two following paragraphs to my personal statements for graduate school:
My stories, and the characters in them, often hid in the shadows while I pirouetted through dance recitals and blazed away on my violin at concerts. I acted in plays and painted; I joined the cheerleading squad; I went to arts camp. I found every possible way to make noise and perform and tell stories – except through my writing. By the time I finished high school, I had filled dozens of notebooks with prose. I loved writing and said I wanted to be a writer, but any time anyone tried to read one of my stories, I snatched the notebooks away.
Performing felt safe because I did not have to give too much away; I could hide behind a cheesy smile and controlled movements. Writing, conversely, exposed my interior. Years later, in fiction workshop, Lee K. Abbott would tell us that writers write “about their obsessions.” As an adolescent, and even as a college student, I hesitated before sharing my obsessions – body image, sexuality, womanhood, and family, among others – with the world.It was probably the most honest thing I put on any of those loathsome personal statements.
In May 2010, I started Prose Therapy at the suggestion of my sister, and thought it would be an effective way to ensure that I was writing on a regular basis.
Before long, I was writing about work. I was miserable at my job and needed a place to vent, so I vented here. I worked for a corporate cafe chain at the time, however, and thus could not risk revealing either my employer's or my identity. I tried to turn this into one of those scathing, snarky, hilarious service-industry blogs à la Bitchy Waiter. Instead, I further entrenched myself in my own bitterness and resentment, and stopped doing and writing about things I cared about. How quickly I abandoned my true self and interests in order to further immerse myself in a job I so despised!
I don't want to write things I can't put my name on anymore; the hiding and hesitating need to stop. I took the first step toward calling myself a "real" writer in September, when I began applying for MFA programs. The next step is to just write - write publicly and privately, write early and often, write until my fingers go numb. I already have a blog and a modest following; it's time to make it into something I actually want to put my name and face on. No longer will I lower my own standards because I think, oh well, pretty much no one reads the thing and my name's not on it anyway.
That's not to say there won't be silly, meaningless posts from time to time. I must not strive to be high-minded all the time, otherwise I will get bored and forget the point of all this. For this reason I intend to keep posts like this and this, as well as my Shit That's Really Starting to Get on My Nerves series. Nobody likes a a writer who takes herself too seriously. However, those of you who have been reading all along might notice a difference; I removed almost all the posts in which I bitched about jobs, past and present, and saved copies on a Word file. The result, I hope, is a leaner, more balanced, and more positive overall feel. It's not that I wish to erase that period of my life from memory or to deny anything I said. I just don't need those posts anymore; there is much more to me and my writing than my 8-5, M-F life.
In order to usher in the new era, allow me to truly introduce myself, as I really am, and not as an alias:
My name is Kelly. I am a writer. I prefer fiction, but I also write creative nonfiction and the occasional poem. I have played the violin for fifteen years, too.
I also like to travel.
I was a strange child. Sometimes my family members still call me "Kelly the Exhibitionist."
I went to Ohio State, and graduated with a double major in Music and English in 2009.
I am known to act a fool on occasion.