Therese here. Today’s guest is Nina Badzin, who was one of the quarter-finalists in our search for an unpublished contributor for the blog. Since our search, Nina has had a story published by Sleet Magazine–“Son”–which was also nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Other fiction credits include works in Literary Mama, Scribblers on the Roof, Talking Stick; and another that will soon be published in The Potomac: a Journal of Poetry and Politics. (Go, Nina!) We’re thrilled she’s agreed to let us share her WU entry with you here today–on being a writer, saying it, believing it, owning it. Enjoy!
Me, Julia Roberts, and The Pie in the Sky
For the unpublished novelist, saying, “I’m a writer,” takes tremendous confidence. I’ve published a few pieces in small journals and dabbled in stories all of my life—writing them, telling them, reading them with a flashlight in the middle of the night. But I’m reluctant to call myself a writer to anyone other than my mother who’s been scanning the bestseller lists for my name since I won a playwriting contest in seventh grade.
Maybe I hesitate to use the label because I’ve yet to make a dime from my efforts. Maybe I’m waiting for an agent, a sale, and that gorgeous hardcover book. I’m not sure. All I know is that on the occasion that people ask me how long I’ve been thinking about becoming a writer, I give them two answers. And I rarely say the words, “I’m a writer NOW.”
My initial response is, “For as long as I can remember.” It’s the insecure, self-deprecating, pie-in-the-sky answer I use to avoid discussing my goal of publishing a novel, a notion I imagine sounds as preposterous as my saying I’m jetting out to L.A. and auditioning against Julia Roberts for a starring role.
My second answer is the one I hope will transform me from a doe-eyed day dreamer into a bona fide author. I tell people I’ve been “working on” becoming a writer for four years.
And it’s accurate—at least the timeline.
Four years ago I made a decision to stop fantasizing about writing and actually do it. I write before my kids wake up. I write in the afternoon when they nap, I write when they have a babysitter, or during their swim lessons, and when I should be exercising, cooking or doing anything else. If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. I think about the characters in my newest project and even the ones from the two novels I completed in the past four years, manuscripts I changed countless times before I finally got the good sense to hide them on a file on my computer—a sense that developed after spending every spare moment of the past four years honing my craft.
Who but a writer would say something as pretentious as honing the craft? And if a writer writes, then I suppose that’s what I am. A writer. There, I said it. A writer. Me.
Still, every muscle in my body clenches at the idea of saying the words out loud. Perhaps it’s because in my more paranoid moments, I interpret my friends’ interest as roundabout criticism. In hear, “I’d love to hear what you’re writing about” as I can’t imagine you have anything to say. “I don’t know how you find the time” becomes you must be neglecting your children.
Nevertheless, I write. That’s what writers do. We write. And it’s probably time I go public with the truth. I. Am. A. Writer. I’m a writer who plans to keep reaching for that pie in the sky.
Thanks so much for a great post, Nina!
Readers, do you find–or have you ever found–it difficult to own the “writer” label? Is it wound up with publication, or not? (And psst, you can follow Nina on Twitter at @NinaBadzin.) Write on.