I spent this past weekend going to a wedding of two of my former students for which I wrote an incredibly sappy poem. But part of the wedding fun was the fact that it was also a mini-reunion of several of my former students from the same high school. They are now all grown up and out there in the world pursuing their dreams. Through all of the fun and hugs, I kept getting asked, “What are you doing now?”

The easy answer to that question is to say that I’m a writer. But I find myself questioning that label. It is not as concrete of an identity as saying I’m a high school English teacher or saying that I’m a graduate student. Those were labels easy to wear and represent because they have clear definition. Saying that I’m a writer – it is not a definable “job”.

Invariably, the question becomes what do I write? I have a stock answer that doesn’t invite too many questions. Usually, I get a good response when I say I’m writing a novel because of my teaching experience. I had to laugh when one of those former students asked if my novel was going to be as messed up as Lord of the Flies, a reflection that my torturing them with it at least made an impression.

After coming home and recovering from the festivities, I reflected on my answer. Am I a writer? Many of you know that when you write, you don’t always have something concrete to show for your work. You also don’t always get immediate feedback on your creations. And whether it’s hubris or just being human, we like and even crave feedback especially for things we create. So the identity of writer can be tenuous for someone who is new to trying it on for size.

I will admit a fault of mine is to be too cerebral when indulging my obsessive compulsive behavior to try and control my surroundings. My research into becoming a writer, my reaching out to other writers through writing groups, my interest in MFA programs –  these are my attempts to try and control the definition of “writer”. Instead, I think it would be better to change tack to one with more pliability that is fueled by the “doing” of writing rather than the “thinking” about it. Better yet, I need to remind myself that there’s some fun in the quest so that next time I can say with more assurance, “I’m a writer.”

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