The Empty Mirror

Someone made a comment today that took me back. One of those comments that sting; make you examine yourself, your life, your goals. 

I have always viewed myself as a writer–first and foremost. There it is. I've said it. It's not something a woman likes to admit; especially not a mother of small children; people are inclined to pat your head and say, "Oh, isn't that sweet!" And so I write, but I do so quietly–and usually under another name because the things that sell are, frankly, not amazing, but marketable. 
But secretly, I think of myself as a writer that one day will use her own name, every time, because there will be no doubt, in anyone's mind, that I am a writer, then. Not like now. A closet writer. A writer that has to supplement her writing with other income, granted, but I am, at the very least, a legitimate writer.
Some of it sells; some of it doesn't. Some of it is just for me, just to clear the air, to examine the details of each day, to make sense of what happens.  But write I must; if I'm not writing, I get snappish and surly and nothing is satisfying and life is not worth living.
I remember, at a writers' conference I attended a few years ago, the keynote speaker said something along the lines of: lots of people like to think they are writers, but what they really are, are people who like to think of themselves as writers, not people who write. Writers, write. Period.
Today it was suggested to me that I am one of those people. Egad! That I am primarily destined for these other things (mother, teacher, child watcher, etc,) and that, as a sort of afterthought, I also happen to enjoy writing. 
Am I? A hobbyist? If I were really, really dedicated, if I really, really believed in the potential of my words, would I quit my job, waive the education, buckle down, and make my living wholly, and no longer in part, by writing? What, truly, is the measure of a writer?
And how much superfluous living is a writer permitted to engage in, before they are no longer considered "a writer"?
And why does this comment bother me so? Because I have a niggling horror that they might be right? That I have an inflated sense of my own skill? That I am not what I have always thought myself to be, and if so–if I am to strip myself of this identity, release myself from the insistent demands of the pen and the keyboard and the constant inner discontent with every manuscript–then who is that stranger in the mirror? 
I would not deny the significance of these other things that make me who I am–mother, teacher, bottom-wiper extraordinaire–if I could do just one of these things really, really well, I could die happy. (Okay, maybe not bottom wiper–that probably wouldn't satisfy…) 
What puzzles/frustrates me is this attitude that if I am a mother or even a teacher–if I put any sort of passion into any one role–that this somehow disqualifies me from being serious or skilled or even proficient at anything else. 

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6 responses to “The Empty Mirror

  • Ladywise

    You write about your children and you write about your life. If you gave all of that up to just write, then what would you write about?

  • Kimber

    Thank you! My point exactly! Without living a full life, where is the writing–and to what end?

  • Jayne Crook

    I'm still stuck on "I write under names not my own. Some of it sells." What is that name you write under? I'd like to read your writing. I happen to enjoy your writing style. You can email me so as not to "out" yourself. Though, I do think credit is due and you should own it.
    I'm having this same kind of issue with running. Only it's me saying I'm not a true runner. And every time I do the girls I run with scoff at me. For me, it's the "need to run to feel alive" that I don't possess. Those girls have it. Which is why I don't feel like a true runner. The comment you received must have been from someone who doesn't know that if you don't write, you don't feel right. Keep writing. And don't let the comments bog you down.

  • Mandy

    I too would love to know under what other name you write. As your cousin, and a big fan of yours I want to read. I am a reader…and I need to read. Where can I find your stuff to read?

  • Kimber

    No, seriously, there's a reason I don't claim credit. For example, my most frequent job: In the world of print-for-sale, they have these things we like to call "prostitorials": companies pay newspapers and magazines to write full-page articles waxing effusive about said company's contribution to the community, the world and mankind in general. These articles are not printed with the "PAID ADVERTISEMENT" disclaimer you see in, say, The Reader's Digest. They masquerade in the paper or periodical like any other article. I never say anything that is not strictly true, but sometimes it sure feels like it! I'd love to say I have a well-established secret series of books to let you in on, but I don't–it's all grunt work–lots of interviews, lots of fact polishing, lots of brown nosing. I roll my eyes, but it's actually pretty fun–to take an assignment for a really, really boring company and find a way to write an amusing, or at the very least, readable article anyway.

  • Kimber

    Awwww, your sweet! As for feeding your reading habit–see my reply to Jayne, above. Unless you like to read about how REC's solar ventures are going to save the planet, say, I'd look elsewhere!

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