Writer vs Author

This week, I quit the paralegal course I’ve been taking this year. I had no desire to continue in this field, and while the decision was difficult, I feel much lighter now that I’ve let it go. Of course, I do still plan to finish school and slowly enter the workforce again. I’d love to be able to provide the family with some fun-money while still taking care of the boys, and obviously I need to be able to support the family if something happened to Jason. In the meantime, I have the privilege and opportunity to seek out a career path that truly makes me happy.

What makes me happy? Writing. This has been my passion for decades. And yet, apart from a few halfhearted attempts, I’ve never really tried to make the leap from writer (one who writes) to author (a published writer). Instead, I keep working on my manuscripts. There are many reasons behind this, and as this is a typical introspective time of year for me, I want to explore those reasons.

Power of Words

Why do I write? What do I want to achieve by writing? And how do I plan to achieve it? Simple questions with answers unique to each writer. I’ve mentally meandered a lot on this, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

Why do I write?
Because I must. To not-write feels like the death of some essential part of me. I will write regardless of whether or not anyone else reads my words.

What do I want to achieve by writing?
Despite the fact that I would write regardless, I do want my words to be read. I want to be an author. Certainly not for fame or prestige (both a little terrifying to me), or for money (though it’d make a lovely side-benefit!). No. I write because words mean a lot to me, and I want my words to reach out and make a difference in someone’s life.

And how do I plan to achieve it?
Here’s where the demons rise up. I’m a decent writer. Not perfect, but I have skills. I’m confident in those skills and in my books. But I can’t for the life of me submit to agents. I’ve tried. I’ve queried a meek handful of times, tried to network at conferences, learned tons about the process. And yet, I find excuses or become paralyzed after a bold attempt or two, and set aside the idea of querying for extended periods of time. Rejection (even impersonal) is a PTSD trigger, so I just keep going back to writing. Believe me, I’ve worked hard to banish these fears. The fact that I’ve queried at all testifies to that. And I’ll keep trying, though at this point, until something in my illness changes, I don’t see any real results coming from the traditional publishing route.

So why not self-publish? Oh, my friends. So many PTSD issues related to this one. If I self-publish, I have to accept a tiny readership, because I have no sales/marketing skills. If I self-publish, I’ll be conceding defeat to traditional publishing and will feel I’ve failed myself and my books. If I self-publish, I’ll deal with the stigma of “not a real writer,” and hello judgement-and-rejection issues! Not to mention, if I self-publish, I could never give my books the editing, marketing, and design that a publishing house could, and how could I do that to my books??

MS8Swords

(paralysis from within)

The flaws in this logic are easy to spot. Really, there are only three choices, unless I quit writing (not happening!). Either work on my issues and start querying, work on my issues and self-publish, or decide not to publish at all. Not to mention, if this really is about the books – see last paragraph – then frankly, keeping them unseen on my hard-drive isn’t exactly helping them on their mission in life. Some readership is better than no readership! I need to stop fooling myself – stop pretending that if I wait until “the right time,” this whole trigger-laden process (rejection! judgement! stigma! failure!) will somehow get easier, and I’m “saving” the books for when I’m ready to release them. The only thing I’m “saving” is my vulnerable inner-self.

It comes down to a battle: desire vs fear. Will I stay a writer and choose to be okay with that, or will I take the necessary steps to become an author? Right now, paralysis. I honestly don’t know. But I’m working on it.

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About Amanda

Writing. Family. Books. Crochet. Fitness. Fashion. Fun. Not necessarily in that order. Note: agender (she/her).
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13 Responses to Writer vs Author

  1. Esther says:

    Have you ever considered that maybe you have too much time on your hands? I mean, your kids are in school all day. I realize you have errands, cooking, cleaning, etc., but maybe even a part-time job would get you in a new environment, meeting new people, boost your confidence. Sometimes I think I’m most focused and creative when I’m busiest. I have less time to sit around and think. I just do. Not trying to knock your decisions, just a suggestion. Maybe even volunteer someplace for a few hours a week.

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    • I think Amanda is plenty busy throughout her day; dealing with PTSD alone can be a full-time job. Writing is also time intensive.

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    • Amanda says:

      Hi Esther! Let me start by saying that I know exactly what you’re talking about in having too much time. Thankfully, I don’t think that’s my issue. Back when I first starting staying home with the kids, I found a lot of ways to deal with the massive periods of blank time. Starting a book club at my library, volunteering at the library several hours a week, going out with writing clubs, helping out at the schools once the boys started, taking classes and doing other things for self-education, etc. So the trouble is not to do with time. It’s really to do with PTSD and the triggers that go into it. I’m not sure which parts of this post you read (as I can see below that you said you didn’t realize I had PTSD, and this post mostly talks about my PTSD after a certain point), but my problem isn’t one of time or confidence. It’s one of having my brain go instantly into fight-or-flight the moment one of my triggers is touched, and my triggers deal with rejection and abandonment and dishonesty and personal failure (some of which has nothing to do with any of this, of course). I am, at the moment, full time in taking care of my physical and mental health after a year of absolute hell up north. I’m in therapy and working toward healing, but we’re talking 25+ years of baggage to sort through. I have loads of confidence – until a trigger hits, when I turn into a 10 year old child again. It’s awful. Definitely, time with nothing can do will make that worse. I do know exactly where you’re coming from! But thankfully I’m the sort of person who hates having nothing to do, and when my time opens up – something it’s just done for the first time in over a year, actually – I find ways to put myself to task that have nothing to do with the typical duties of a homemaker. 😉

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      • Esther says:

        Sorry, I guess I didn’t read the post as closely as I should have. 😦 I’m glad you’re working on your health and I wish you the best. I know everyone’s situation is different. I spent 15 years as the sole caregiver for my parents and dealing with the depression that accompanied it. Getting a job, starting a blog, becoming interested in theater, were all things that saved me while I was going through a difficult part of my life. Even now, a few years after my surviving parent passed away, I’m still trying to adjust. So I know that life is a process and everyone’s situation is different.

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      • Amanda says:

        No worries, Esther! I really do know where you’re coming from, and I do hope to slowly get myself back into the workforce, even for a few hours a day, or volunteering, just to be out around people and not in the house all the time. I need to do some work first on myself (especially right now with a sprained ankle!) but I’m feeling much better about my future prospects than I used to. 🙂

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  2. Shaina says:

    It can be so, so hard to put yourself out there, especially if rejection is going to be even harder on you than it would be for most. I can completely understand why you’d be paralyzed!

    If you ultimately want to be an author, this probably wouldn’t be a long-term solution or the most satisfying possibility, but what about trying out editing or copywriting, maybe on a volunteer or part-time basis? It might be a good way to dip your toes into what it would be like to write professionally and how to handle rejection/criticism.

    Anyway, just a thought! I’m rooting for desire to win out over fear. 🙂

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    • Amanda says:

      I’d love to edit or copyedit, and actually do this for several writer friends. It definitely did teach me a lot about how to write professionally, but it’s true I’ve never done this for a company. The problem, really, is that everyone wants a degree, and I don’t have one. I really need to get back into school and finish up! Hopefully next fall. Crossing my fingers.

      In general, what really works for me to help me get past fear is exposure. I used to be afraid to wear shorts in public because of my weight, and in the summer of 2011, I forced myself to wear them every day. By the end of the summer, I didn’t care a bit, didn’t even have to think about whether or not I was going to wear shorts. What was panic-ridden before (OMG PEOPLE WILL BE STARING AT ME AND JUDGING ME) simply ceased to exist. And now, I’m heavier than I was at the end of that summer, and I don’t remotely care whether or not I’m in shorts. Etc. So somehow I have to figure out how to do exposure with querying…or just force myself to query all the time, heh.

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      • Shaina says:

        I know exposure doesn’t work for everyone, but I’m glad it seems to do the trick for you! I’ve had a similar experience with wearing revealing clothing when my skin is acting up. My eczema can get REALLY bad, and it used to mortify me to wear short sleeves or shorts when it’s red/flaky/etc. Nowadays, I don’t give a crap. Stare if you want—I’d rather be comfy. 😉

        Anyway, it sounds like you have the general roadmap of how you’ll get to where you want to be (query, query, query!). I hope you can start heading down that path, even just with baby steps. 🙂

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      • Amanda says:

        Perhaps once I work a bit more with therapy, I can get to a place where I can query query query!

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  3. Valerie says:

    Hi Amanda! I don’t know if you remember me — and if not, that’s okay, it’s been a while! I’m a former blogger who is thinking seriously about taking it up again! I’m the one who sent you a Harry Potter book in Dutch that I had come across. During my musings of “should I blog again?” I thought I’d re-visit some of my favorites (when I stopped blogging, I kind of stopped following the blogging world as well). Like you, my family and I have recently gone through major moves; in fact we also recently bought a contemporary style house as well! Ours was built in 1980. It’s not an architectural style I had ever pictured myself living in, but I totally love this place! Yes, I’ll start blogging again — just need to come up with a good domain name :-).

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    • Amanda says:

      Hey! It’s so good to see you again. I went through a few years of not-blogging, too, and fell out of the world, just starting up again about a year ago. 🙂 And isn’t a good domain name a must?? Heh. Definitely let me know when you’ve got something started up!

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