Am I Really a … Writer?
by Cavanaugh Lee, the Georgia-based author of Save as Draft
I write this post as I sit in my hotel room in Bowling Green, Kentucky. In two hours, I’ll be speaking to a class of aspiring writers about how to write a winning query letter and score a literary agent. Tomorrow I’m on a panel entitled Contemporary New Fiction and will sign books from 8.45am to 4pm. So about that book … My first book – Save as Draft – was released by Simon & Schuster on February 1, 2011, and I’m still promoting it which is why, in quiet moments like these in cities I’ve never been to before, I wonder: am I really a… writer? Do I deserve to be here? I kind of feel like a poseur and uh-oh do “they” (“they” being the real writers) know I don’t belong?
Alas ’tis true.
I also wonder whether all new writers feel like this. I mean, writing a book is a big deal. It can take months, years, decades even, of blood, sweat, and tears. Getting your book published is an even bigger deal, because it means someone in a position of power has faith in your manuscript which you have held dear to your heart for quite some time. So all this being said admittedly as I sit here at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bowling Green I do wonder if I’ve earned the right to speak (or even write) about writing. And more than that – just when does a new writer earn the right to talk about her craft?
I tell you about my literary insecurities because I think this is what all debut authors (I must be making progress if I just referred to myself as an “author”) must be going through when their first book is published. It’s both an exciting time and a terribly nervous one – exciting because, well, duh, your book is on the shelf at Barnes & Noble and that’s just AWESOME; nervous because you hope it won’t be your last book. It’s also a bit awe-inspiring if you take part in festivals and authors like Tobias Wolff and Nicholas Sparks are standing next to you as you stare up adoringly at them and wonder how you’re supposed to introduce yourself. Do I say: “Hi, my name is Cavanaugh Lee, and I’m a writer?” Or do I say: “Hi, my name is Cavanaugh Lee, and I wrote this book that just came out but I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be here but someone took pity and invited me so can I get your autograph?”
When is the point when a writer can actually call herself a “writer”? That’s the question I’ve been struggling with, and that’s what you, aspiring writers, will likely struggle with at some point in your near futures. Well, I’ve recently come up with an answer even if I have to remind myself every so often. My answer is this (and I’ll preface by saying yes I am a touchy-feely person, hello, I do write chick lit!): if you’ve ever put pen to pad then you already are a writer. The moment I started typing “Chapter 1” of my novel, Save as Draft, I took the first big step on a very long adventure … And as I kept on writing each night (writing takes discipline so don’t take a night off if you don’t have to), I became more and more a writer. The path is long (I hope) but also well-worth it. The goal, of course, is to say:
I’m a writer.
I’m an author.
I wrote this book about…
How do you get there? You write. So, pretty please, keep on writing and know you deserve a place in between Wolff and Sparks and even Shakespeare (okay I won’t got that far but you know what I mean). What better place is there to be? It’s a literary community of steps, one in front of the other never looking back nor, more important, second-guessing.
I’m a writer, and you’re writer. It’s very nice to meet you! ☺