Last week I traded emails with a friend as we caught up with each other. She emails me. I email her back. Her next email starts with… ”First comment. Change that signature [line] from aspiring author to just author.”
I’d been grappling with that very idea for a few weeks. But there was a nagging little voice that kept saying, “Your fiction hasn’t been published. You haven’t earned the right to call yourself an author.” I share my concern with her.
My friend, who is never shy about sharing her opinion, responds: “Of course you’re an author if you haven’t been published. That’s a minor technicality.”
I tell myself I’m being silly. I had no problem putting “Freelance Writer & Editor” in my signature line. Perhaps that’s because I’ve earned income as a Freelance Writer & Editor and have tangible products I can wave under any naysayers nose as I declare the validity of that statement. But, I can’t do the same with my fiction. At least, not yet.
I acknowledge she is right, yet I don’t change my signature line. The idea of claiming authorship without the validity of an agent and a contract in my back pocket causes me physical distress.
The following week, Deb Smouse, and I exchange emails about upcoming plans for All Things Girl. The next day we talk on the phone. “I’ve been meaning to tell you,” she says, “you need to change your signature line.”
Deb (also a writer) and I have a similar discussion. I tell her I know I should and that I’ve been meaning to, but… She gives me the Debquivalent of “Just Do It.” But she also tosses out a word I am more comfortable with – novelist.
Somehow I feel at peace with this word. After all, I’ve written THREE COMPLETED NOVELS. And a novelist is simply someone who writes novels, right? So I change my signature line to include “Novelist.” But I don’t feel great about it. Deep down I am disappointed in myself for feeling too intimidated to own up to the title of “author.” I relegate these misgivings to the back of my mind. Only they don’t have time to settle in and get comfortable.
Yesterday, after an All Things Girl meeting, Deb emails me and Elizabeth Rago. She forwards us an email about Jeff Goin’s 15-day writing challenge which started the very next day. “Any interest in doing this together?” she asked. Elizabeth and I agreed. Which brings us to today, the very first day of the challenge. And what is the topic? Declare that you are a writer. And so I am.
I am a novelist, a writer of novels, and an author, a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.; the composer of a literary work… I declare this without apology or qualification because none is required.
I am a writer. Period.