Earlier this year a friend asked me to join a book club, and while the group was introducing themselves one lady said she was a writer. While introducing myself, I said everything but.
I’ve been working on my YA series full-time for three years. Before that, writing professionally as a beauty writer/editor for nine, yet I didn’t feel any of that warranted introducing myself as a writer. Later when it did come up, and the people who I’d just met asked what my book was about—I couldn’t even tell them. I stumbled over my words, gave off a laugh, and changed the topic.
Because I wasn’t published, because I couldn’t say, “This is where you can buy my book”, I felt like it wasn’t real, that I had no right to talk about it, that no one would be interested in hearing about my book, even though these people were.
On the way home, my friend pointed out that I never talk about my writing and that when she has tried to ask me what it’s about, I’ve only ever given her short, detail-less answers. This again comes down to my self-imposed belief that no one really wants to know, that they are just being polite, and it’s not a real book because it isn’t published. The evening made me sad and angry—at myself.
I’ve worked hard on my series, dreaming about it for years, completing four books in the last three, sending the first book to assessors, agents and publishers. I’ve spoken about my books with pride on Instagram, my blog, and Facebook, yet when in the audience of real, live people, people who were actually interested in what they were about and wanted to read them, I froze. I didn’t want to talk about my writing. I felt like a fraud.
I know I’m not the first writer to feel this way, and that others, even published writers, feel the same, but that offered little comfort at the time. I began to ask myself that if all I’ve accomplished doesn’t make me a writer, then what would? When do you not feel like a fraud?
A few years ago, that answer would have been, “When I’m published.” Now I know that that answer should be, “Right now.” The truth is that the only person who feels like I’m a fraud, that I’m not a writer, is me. The people asking to read my book when they heard I spent my days writing didn’t care that it wasn’t published, they didn’t even ask that question. They just asked what it was about and were genuinely interested in hearing my answer.
I spent nine years proudly saying I was a writer because it was my paid profession. As soon as that job finished, I started working for myself, writing my own books. I worked on them as if I was still a full-time writer, keeping my nine to five hours, writing my books instead of putting together articles for someone else. Just because I was no longer getting paid didn’t mean I was suddenly not a writer. If anything, I was a super-writer, achieving more with the whole series than in all the years before when it was just a hobby!
I’ve earned the right to call myself a writer, even if I can’t explain what my books are about when asked, even if I’ve spent two years having my first book rejected, even if I’m still spending my days finding things wrong with what I’ve written, and languishing in self-doubt. I am a writer, not a fraud, and that is the only way to answer that question.
— K.M. Allan