Dropping the Asterisk

I have put a few posts up in the past couple of days about the Imaginarium convention I just attended. I expect as I go through and process the events of the weekend that there will be more.

I have spent a large part of yesterday and a good portion of the drive home Sunday trying to put my finger on what made it so amazing and what about the weekend had the most impact on me. Both as a person and as a writer.

And then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks (or whatever cliche that loosely translates to “Well no DUH”).

If you’ll read up a little bit, you might get a hint.

I’ll help you out…see the bit up there where I say as a writer?

There’s no asterisk.
There’s no condition on that statement.

This weekend I came out of the creative closet. When I had conversations with people, it was as a writer. When I attended panels and workshops, it was to further my career as a writer.

A writer.

I’m a writer.

I don’t want to be a writer someday.  I AM a writer.

Not a writer with the spoken or unspoken asterisk* which added one of the following in my head when I would tell people I’m a writer:
*who hasn’t published anything on Amazon
*who only writes a blog
*who sometimes writes writing memes
*who sometimes writes poetry memes
*who has several works in progress write

No. Those may be true, but they are no longer conditions of me telling people that I am a writer. As I mentioned, I met writers this weekend living in all stages of the writers arc. I met SO MANY people who said they sometimes felt like an imposter for whatever reason, like they didn’t deserve to call themselves writers. In fact, in a truly sad realization, the panel entitled, “The Imposter Syndrome” was probably the fullest panel I sat in on. It was literally standing room only. Which can only mean that it’s really not just me.

But you know what? Fuck that. I’m a writer.

OK. I know this seems silly to some of you. You’re sitting there thinking something along the lines of Duh, Todd. We know you’re a writer. We read what you’ve written. We couldn’t do that if you didn’t write it, so therefore you MUST be a writer.

There’s a little more to it than that, at least for me.

Yes, I know I write. I write a lot. More than you actually see. Some of it is good. Some of it is shit. Some of it is somewhere in between.

But not everyone who writes is a writer. It’s really that simple. Lots of people can write. But the people that can’t go a day without putting pen to paper (or banging something out on a keyboard, typer, or blog)–THOSE people are the writers. Not just people who write.

Being a writer is one of those things that even though you know you’re one, there is still a piece that requires external validation–at least on some level.

I don’t need you, the reader, to read my work and tell me it’s good bad or otherwise.

But I do NEED you to read it. At some point.

It’s true. I would write anyway–even if there were no one to read it (another tenet of many of the writers I met this past weekend), but ultimately I feel more fulfilled when I know someone is reading my work.  Even if that work is this blog (for now).

I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone but me.

I felt like the convention this weekend was a massive 12-step gathering in a way.

Hello, I’m Todd, and I’m a word-a-holic. I filled my first journal when I was seven and…phhhhew….well, I’ve been writing ever since. I almost got fired on my last job because I would just start writing. I couldn’t stop myself. I find that if I don’t plan my day around writing somehow that I’m wasting the day.  I mean…the writing doesn’t control me.  Oh shit. It does. I honestly thought I could quit. But I can’t. I know that now. I’m powerless. The need to write, even one little thing, every day just overwhelms me.

And then the other members would be all, “Welcome Todd.  We love you. Thank you for sharing. Remember, if you work the outline, the outline works.”

It is an addiction in a way. And a sickness of sorts. Now…I have to be completely honest here–if there WERE a cure for this, I would never take it. I need this outlet to survive.

I have two great fears. The first is losing my sight. I know I could still write and create without sight, but I still would lose part of the observation of the beauty around me. It’s a subtle lesson and reminder to always look at things with a sense of awe and wonder. That childlike fascination that helps us paint the most amazing word pictures. In that sense, the fear is a good thing.

The other fear I have is losing my mind. I talked to a few other writers this weekend and that was high up on the list. One had a fear of losing her hands.

But our minds. As a writer, that’s the place where it all begins. There is something in our make up that allows us to suspend the disbelief of the actual world we live in and create entirely new worlds to bring our reader in.

I also have this recurring dream about losing my legs, but that one doesn’t scare me. Something about those dreams let me know that it’s probably going to happen at some point and that it will be OK. Ironically I had those dreams more when I was trapped in failing marriages. Go figure.

The other dream isn’t quite so scary. It’s the dream I have of walking in to an airport newsstand and seeing my book on the shelf.  Of getting on that plane and sitting next to someone on the plane who is reading that book.

And then eventually, god help me, sitting on panels at writing conventions–looking for the person sitting in the audience like I was this year. Terrified that someone will find out. Find out that I’m not a real writer.  The fucked up thing about that is…what IS a real writer? If you ask me a real writer is someone with a story to tell. And no matter what they do, that story has to come out. That story will beat around in their head, forcing its way out.  Those with the courage to sit down and give birth to those words–THEY are the writers.

And they are my people.  I am one of them.

This year has been an amazing one for my growth as an author.  Chris, Randall, Tim, Trace, William…you started it.  You pulled me in and would not ever let me pass or sail by with the bullshit excuse of “I’m not a writer because I just blog.”  Thank you for that.  Carma and all of the amazing family up in Ashland in the North Central Ohio Writers group–thank you. Oh my fucking god thank you.  The retreat broke down some major barriers for me.

And Imaginarium broke the last of the barriers.

I’m a writer.

I am sitting here in the break room at work, choked up, feeling the moisture in my eyes as I write and read that sentence. Because it took me a while to get here.   I’m not going to lie. I’m sure at some point, many points, along the way I will again feel like an imposter. But that doesn’t matter. I’m a writer.  I’ll find my way back. Now that I know what this place is. This feeling. This acceptance. This shared sense of tribe–I don’t want to leave it.

Y’all are so screwed.

I got out of the shower this morning and was hit with another passage for a book. I don’t currently have a book that I’m working on where it fits, so I wrote it down.  I might use it someday. I may never use it.

But writers write.

And I’m a writer.

Thank you for reading this random meandering. This is one of those things that I had to write for me. I had to try to solidify what was floating around in my head. I hope that if anyone was out there feeling like I was just a few short months ago that they had no business calling themselves a writer, that they can squash that doubt.  It has no place.   It’s no longer welcome in my head. And it shouldn’t be welcome in yours.  You’re a writer. Write.


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