One thing I’ve been learning to do as a writer* is heed the images that present themselves to me without my asking, and worry about the “why” later, or sometimes, never. I know I know why. And I reject the delusion that I’m so special, no one else will understand. If the image was imminent enough that it surfaced in my mind, chances are it will resonate with plenty of others. Those with whom it doesn’t might at least be intrigued enough to consider why someone else might have the thought (which saves me the trouble of telling them), and those who aren’t even intrigued have no business enjoying art anyway. Just kidding.
*Over a year ago, Jason and I went to a Starbucks in the weird, far-western part of San Francisco, and I told him I now hate when people ask me what I do, because I have to fiddle some uncomfortable answer about how I’m still looking for work after quitting my last job, but really what I want to do is write so I’m working on writing. Jason said, “Why don’t you just say ‘I’m a writer’?” and I said, “I don’t think I get to say that until I’ve gotten some kind of recognition from an external source, you know, like money for writing something or something.” He wrote “A WRITER” on a piece of paper and handed it to me, and said something like, “There. Official.” That looks curt with those periods right there, but he didn’t do it in a curt or dismissive way. I don’t think he has the ability to be curt or dismissive. Still, I didn’t think the piece of paper would be sufficient to quell my blossoming identity crisis.
Then I read Stephen King’s On Writing and arrived at this passage on page 235:
Writing courses and seminars do offer at least one undeniable benefit: in them, the desire to write fiction or poetry is taken seriously. For aspiring writers who have been looked upon with pitying condescension by their friends and relatives** (“You better not quit your day job just yet!” is a popular line, usually delivered with a hideous Bob’s-yer-uncle grin), this is a wonderful thing. In writing classes, if nowhere else, it is entirely permissible to spend large chunks of your time off in your own little dreamworld. Still–do you really need permission and a hall-pass to go there? Do you need someone to make you a paper badge with the word WRITER on it before you can believe you are one? God, I hope not.
Like I said, I’m not special. I guess the moral, though, is that neither are WRITERs, and with that cleared up, I suppose that yes, that is what I am.
**Aside from the paper badge, which Jason presented with love and whimsical intention, my experience has been almost eerily the opposite–both friends and relatives have bent over backwards to support my writing ambitions. Even my copy of On Writing was a gift from my aunt and uncle, joining half a dozen other books given to me by friends and family to help spur me along this path. The only person who tried to talk me out of quitting my day job was the HR director of my day job, and even he seemed to be merely trying to justify his own day job: “I’ve been chronicling my life experiences too,” he said (somewhat to my surprise), “but you don’t just cut your lifeline like that.” Eh.