Am I a writer yet?

The waitress who’s an actress. The Uber driver who’s a bodybuilder. The banker who’s a painter. The lawyer who’s a stand-up comedian.
In the past when people asked me what I do, I always conceded to my day job.

“I work in real estate.”

I’ve tried to tell people what I really do (where most of my time/energy goes).

“I’m a writer.”

Truth is, I’m not one hundred percent comfortable with that. It feels immodest. The next question is always, “What do you write? Have you ever had anything published?”

And when I go into the details of my mild successes, it feels contrived. Their faces are a little bit confused like they’re grappling to find a reason to validate me. They’re seeing right through me. I’m a fraud. I’m full of shit. I’m reminded of why I don’t say I’m a writer…

How much success do I need? How much money do I need to make? When will the phrase “I’m a writer” feel authentic?

I spend five to six hours a day working on my writing. That’s twice as much time I spend on the day job. I’m very lucky that I can prioritize my writing over everything and still pay my bills. AND now that I’m in grad school, I’m writing all the time. Saturday and Sunday afternoons are now spent writing. Or at least outlining, thinking, brainstorming, navigating stories or reading scripts and books.

So now, if someone would approach me and ask me what I do?

“I’m a grad student.”

I can show them the homework and feedback I got from my workshop. In two years I can show them the Master’s degree and the debt I’ve accumulated. That’s a result. That’s merchandisable. That’s a “viable product.” I can’t show them the countless unproduced screenplays or the short stories or even this blog. That’s not enough. The grad student fits into a box and makes sense. There’s an end game. No need to grapple with that.

ME: “I’m writing a screenplay. I’m a writer.”

SOME GUY: “Oh, so then what’s next?”

ME: “I have no fucking idea.”

I’ve been produced. I’ve sold a script. My novel is being published. I spend the majority of my weekly hours writing, so what has to happen? What would help me confidently answer this question: What do you do? What are you? What am I?

I don’t think there is a clear answer to my identity crisis. It’s hard to say if it’ll ever change. Maybe when I’m living in LA and making money writing screenplays full time… I long for this day. There is honor in it. A LABEL that I strive for.

I’m reminded that all I can do is write.  And to be a writer means to write.

Always be writing.

 

-REH

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