I’m not a writer
I almost never call myself a writer.
Never mind that I have written hundreds, if not thousands of articles for both print and electronic media.
Never mind that I have taught writing for nearly 8 years at four different colleges.
Never mind that my full-time job title at the University of California is “Writing Specialist.”
Never mind that I co-founded this little writing syndicate you’re perusing right now.
I will never label my profession as “writer” on my social media accounts and I would rarely introduce myself as one.
I just can’t do it.
There’s something about calling oneself a writer that feels remarkably pretentious. The real writers are on my bookcase, stacked adjacent to and atop one another. The real writers are in MFA programs and contributing to ‘zines while eating ramen, drinking boxed wine and praying the electricity doesn’t get shut off. The real writers are out there, untouchable, distant and glowing with aura.
They say you never get tired of seeing your name in print. That’s certainly been the case for me. A few times a year, I’ll pull out some old newspaper clips from my journalism days, or one of the textbooks I’ve contributed to, and run my fingers across the paper. Yet every piece feels like something finite and in the past. I wrote that, I tell myself with, admittedly, a flicker of pride. But the flicker extinguishes quickly.
That was then. This is now. You’re not writing now, David Lacy.
One of my greatest writing mentors is my iPinion LLC partner, Debra DeAngelo. I’ve known Debra since I was a teenager and both of us were in print in some of the same publications for a few years. I still come to Debra when I’m having trouble writing.
“I can’t think of anything to write,” I lament. My excuses are varied and many: I don’t feel I’ll be able to “top” my last piece; too many people have already written on this or that issue; I want to produce something epic and memorable.
Debra’s advice is consistently the same: “Just write. Just sit down, imagine a gun to your head and write. And sure, a lot of people have written about [such and such topic], but you haven’t. You haven’t lent your voice to that discussion.”
Debra doesn’t go for perfection (although I believe she achieves it more than she realizes). Debra simply sits down and has a staring contest with her screen, and she doesn’t give up until the screen has lost. I don’t suspect Debra thinks of writers as untouchables, out there in the world. In writing her own small town column, she often vacillates between emotionally powerful and timely pieces on important topics and cheeky tales about things like her cat throwing up. (Literally. Yes. That was a column.)
Debra has a separate, professional social media page, and there her official title is “writer.”
I wish I had her guts. I really, truly do. But I just can’t shake my anxieties in that regard.
My name is David Lacy and I’m not a writer.
I just wrote this.
But I won the staring contest with my screen.