This year I attended the San Francisco Writer’s Conference and it was an awesome experience. I was so proud to have won the Ethnic Writing Scholarship, and it was printed boldly on my name badge for God and everybody to see that I had that honor. There were writers of all experience levels, chatting with one another and discussing ongoing projects. Some were unpublished, like me, but yearning to be. Others were deeply entrenched in the business with several books on the market to their credit.
It struck me as odd that when someone said their agent was blah, blah, blah, and their publisher was yada, yada, yada, it was assumed obviously that they were a writer. But, I noticed that when I said “soon to be published” then the follow up question to are you published was, “Oh how nice, what do you do.” I remember it was a nice feeling to say “I’m a writer too.” They would smile, but the “no, not really” look on their faces betrayed them. Also, let me say that this was not the overall attitude of the conference. It is a very supportive environment for writers or every level, and the best place to reach out to others and bond over the craft. I enjoyed it immensely, however…
I found myself in the midst of a group of people craving to learn more about craft of writing, discussing their projects with the same proud and eager look in their eyes that I had, and yet seldom did they introduce themselves as writers. Instead they said they were lawyers, golf pros, cowboys and Indian chiefs, or whatever. So, I suppose it’s pretty obvious that “what do you do?” is code for “how do you make your money?” Is money really the only way we define ourselves? (Only a person with no money would ask that, right.)
When do you know that who you are is not how you earn your money?” I believe it’s when analyzing your place in the world takes a back seat to really experiencing it. Since I say what I do is based on what I would like others to hear, to frame how they think of me, I want them to know where the passion glows, so that makes me a writer instead of a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker. I suppose that I just didn’t feel that people in the outside world should reflect back to me what my identity should be. I mean, deep down, I know myself better than anyone else.
Since the conference, I’ve also decided I was a true writer when I identified with more than a few issues in my former essay teacher’s, Adair Lara, book You Know You’re a Writer When… One of the funny, but true, jewels I’m guilty of:
You think you should do the talk shows first,
sell the movie rights, and then, if there’s time,
go back and write the book.