from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Random #16: I’m Not a Writer

with 2 comments

I’m very apprehensive about referring to myself as a writer. While I loathe my day job (English teacher in Korea), when faced with that ever so repetitive question “What do you do?” I almost always volunteer that information rather than share that I’m a writer. Because I don’t think of myself in that way. Instead, I almost always hedge the claim with “aspiring” or say something along the lines of “I’m working on a book.” Everyone these days is “working on a book.”

One of the reasons I don’t like to claim to be a writer is because I have nothing published. If you claim that you’re a writer, the inevitable follow-up question is “What have you written?” The problem is, I haven’t really written anything that has been distributed by anyone other than myself. I have nothing to show for the now countless hours I’ve spent with pen in hand or in front of the computer. It’s like saying I’m an investment banker because I’ve invested some of my own money in the stock market. Actually, the money is not even mine. It’s my mom’s.

In an article from the Los Angeles Times, novelist Mary Gordon shares tips for aspiring authors (more specifically, for working mothers who want to write). She says,

But if you’re a writer, you don’t write for money or fame or a chance to dish with Oprah Winfrey. Basically, you write because when you’re not writing, you’re even more cranky than when you are writing.

If what she says is true, then I must not be a writer. I love to write, but as I’ve mentioned before, I also have aspirations of money and fame and “a chance to dish with Oprah.” I’m kind of banking on it.

Don’t get me wrong. My self-worth (as a writer and as a human being) is not dependent on others’ opinion of me or my work. It’s my own personal assessment of my present status and, at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters. However, the damning fact of the matter is that a writer writes so that readers can read. It’s part of the job description. You can’t ignore the audience because the audience is going to buy your books and let you quit your day job. No matter how high and mighty you sit with your engorged artistic integrity and pen in hand, writing for yourself is the equivalent of literary masturbation: a middling level of self-satisfaction when there is no one who cares.

So I sit in this coffee shop on a Saturday night when everyone else is getting busy in one way or another. Because I’m not a writer. Not yet.


2 Responses

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  1. This article proves that your also a writer!

    Line worker Job Description

    October 9, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    • Thank you for the comment. But as I stated in the entry, I won’t allow myself that title until I’ve been published. For the moment, I’m happy simply being just someone who enjoys writing and aspires to be more than that hopefully in the near future.


      October 11, 2010 at 11:04 am

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