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  • Writer's pictureIan

Am I a Writer?

This is a question I have struggled with for some time. In truth, there are many titles or identities that I have attempted to determine whether I am qualified enough to have. The true question is not only how does one obtain such a title, but who controls when that title can be officially bestowed?

In my mind, this isn't a new concept, people have been gate-keeping (controlling who has access to a community or identity) for some time. With the advent of social media, this behavior has only proliferated. Can I consider myself a fan of Star Wars, lets say, if I only like the original trilogy? I've never read any novelizations to gain further insight to the lore. I have never dressed up as a Storm Trooper (not saying I wouldn't, just haven't). But can I be called a true fan?

I'd like to believe that it really doesn't matter in the end, I am a fan, regardless of what other people think. But my mind doesn't work that way; I need to know, without a doubt, if I can qualify.

Am I a writer? Well let's pick this a part a little bit.

I started young... I have really only considered that it was only within recent years that I have attempted creative writing. However, thinking about this blog, memories began to flood back contradicting my assumptions. When we got our first family computer (my father traded his cowboy hat for one, not traditional currency for technology I assure you), I recall typing stories and printing them out on our dot-matrix printer. One such story was concerning a legend about some swamp monster. I remember taking it to a friend's house and having him read it to see what he thought. However, I also recall that I made it the smallest font possible because younger me thought that was terribly clever. He couldn't read it, and I accidentally left the story at his house. I never saw it again.

We also had a fancy electric type writer which I used to attempt to write a story about aliens, UFOs, and abductions. I grew frustrated with my inability to edit a typewriter and gave up. Also I was young so who knows what else distracted me. I wish I had hung on to some of my stories, but on the other hand, maybe it is best to just hang onto the memories and not actually read them.

I do it for a living... My work life began in the laboratory. While I enjoyed working in the healthcare industry, getting to be involved with autopsies and seeing some amazing, and truly devastating diseased body tissues (I worked in Pathology), I found that I really enjoyed my time writing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). These documents are intended to instruct anyone how to perform any given duty in a lab. Writing SOPs was something I did throughout my lab career, and always wished I had more time to do.

I have stepped away from the lab, and currently work at a biomedical equipment company. I consider myself lucky enough that my entire job consists of writing up recommendations for hospitals going through their capital planning periods. I know, I know, sounds boring. However, there is a takeaway here. I can sit all day, 5 (sometimes more) days a week and write. Obviously this is more technical writing and not creative writing, unless the thrill of whether a hospital should replace their CT scanner leaves you on the edge of your seat.

It is my preferred media... As I grow older, I have a higher appreciation for how large a roll creativity plays in my life. Recently, certain family tragedies have accelerated my introspective viewing of creativity. My grandfather and father where both amazing woodworkers, creating some of the most gorgeous furniture pieces I've seen. My grandfather was also an artist, one of his charcoal drawing currently adorns my bedroom. My mother, also incredibly talented, has dabbled in every craft, ever invented, ever. She now, in her mid-60s is trying painting for the first time. Creativity is in my blood, it is my life force.

While I enjoy woodworking, I am not at the level of my father and grandfather. I almost think I do it out of nostalgia rather than my desire to create. While I enjoy drawing and painting, I believe the need to make sure the colors are right, or anatomies are proportionate, gives me more anxiety than it does relieve it.

No, I prefer writing. I love taking a story that has been rummaging around in my head, twisting it, changing this or that, and eventually vomiting it up in a flurry of words. I don't have the talent to tell stories through artwork, I certainly do not have the necessary skills to create films. Writing is a way for me to create characters and worlds that I could not do in any other way. I love the idea that no two people could read my work the same way; each taking away something different. That is the beauty I find in the literary arts.

Dealing with rejection... Jane Friedman writes in her book The Business of Being a Writer "Some say you're not really a writer until your work has been rejected. I tend to agree."

This is an interesting thought, and I read it two ways. One, you aren't a writer until you have been active in trying to publish your work. Being involved in literary arts means sharing your work, for the sake of the art itself, or in a less altruistic sense, writers do it for a living, for money. However, I posit this thought, if an individual spends his or her entire life painting, yet doesn't shares it, does that mean he or she is not a painter?

Art is about expressing emotions, feelings, states of mind, memories regardless of who it is for. It is in this way that I cannot agree with the above statement.

The second thought we can take away from the above quote is that writing is an expressive art, an emotional art, and you truly aren't a writer if you haven't felt the pain of rejection. Rejection equals pain, but more importantly, an opportunity to grow and become better not only as a writer, but as a person. The pursuit of writing, is also a pursuit of self growth and self improvement. Never being content with the status quo can only evolve your work into something greater than yourself.

In this case, I wholeheartedly agree. I have sent a few of my short stories to online publications, only to get the email stating that my work will not be featured. Does it mean that it wasn't good writing? No. Does it mean I will continue to work and keep producing work, attempting to increase its quality? Absolutely.

So, am I a writer? I can concede that I am sure there are other qualifying criteria out there that I am missing, and in those ways I am not a writer. At this point, I have not had anything published, though someday I hope that will change. Regardless, it doesn't matter. All that matters is what I think and believe. This blog is my first step in showcasing my work, practicing my craft, and shedding some light on my trials and tribulations.

In my mind, I can unequivocally say I am indeed a writer.

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