I Won’t Call Myself a Writer Anymore
Facing shame and avoidance in the search for accountability.
As far as I can remember, I always wanted to be a writer. I recall spending hours at the library, reading books by the dozen and thinking « Wow, that was great. One day, I’ll write something like that ».
I’d notice the different styles, the effects, the twists. I’d reflect on the choice of words, how they constructed sentences, and the way they used punctuation to instill rythme to a story. I’d learn about author’s lives, and imagine what my own bio would say 100 years from now, when kids would study my work in school (ambitious much?).
I remember my mom gifting me this book called « How to become a writer » when I was 13, and thinking this was the perfect gift. I decided to pursue a career in journalism mainly because I could be paid to write (talk about a dream job). I even got a feather tattooed on my forearm — the embodiment of my love for writing.
When I left Paris to start a new life in Madrid, Spain, I moved in together with a friend of a friend, an American guy just a few years older than me. We got there at the same time, in the early days of January, both ready for a clean start. He was going to teach classes part-time as an English auxiliary in Spanish schools, and I would do marketing for a French company 40 hours a week.
Apart from his teaching gig, my roommate was a collage artist. He had started doing art a few months prior back in the US, and was getting pretty good at it. Over the months, I saw him work steadily on collage pieces in our living room, staying in while we would go out for drinks, only to perfect his art. He was committed, he did the work. He listened to podcasts about marketing, tried growth hacking tricks to get visibility, went to the museum for inspiration, and spent hours collaging.
Eventually, he started reaching out to bars in our neighborhood to get his stuff hung. As anyone taking the risk to go out there, he faced rejection but didn’t let that bring him down. He kept going, until one bar finally said yes, and then another.
As I’m talking to this couple I just met at his first opening, they ask me if I do some art myself — to what I answer almost automatically « Yes, I’m a writer ». But only when they get interested and question me on what I’m writing do I realize that this was a lie.
Yes, I want to be a writer. But I’m not. Because writers do one thing: they write. And I don’t. I haven’t for a while now.
That book my mom gifted me for Christmas about how to become a writer? I did a couple of exercises on the spot and never opened it again. To this day it’s probably still on the bookshelf in my room in Paris.
Sure, I’ve published several articles in newspapers, had written a few lines here and there in my journal, letters to lovers, even the occasional first sentences of a novel. But does that make me a writer? If I’m being completely honest, I must say no.
So that’s it: I won’t call myself a writer anymore. Not until I truly start writing. It doesn’t matter what: essays, poems, journaling, short-fictions. But I need to commit and start doing the work. If I want to be a writer, I must earn it. So that the next time I’m at an art opening and someone asks me if I do some art myself, I can look them in the eye and say in all honesty « Yes, I’m a writer ».