When I was a kid and anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my unequivocal answer was: “A writer.”
As I came to understand the more direct focus of my ambition, that answer progressed to: “An author.”
Now grown, I’ve accepted that I am a writer and an author. My specialty is the novel, therefore the most specific description of who I am is: A Novelist.
Of course, if I were to introduce myself as a novelist, the very next question I will meet is, “What have you published?”
And my response being, “Nothing,” suddenly my credibility is at risk of obliteration.
Because, a commonly accepted notion is that in order to be a writer, author, novelist… one must be published.
But to achieve publication (although the goal of every writer - I would imagine) is not the qualifier. Thousands, or perhaps more accurately, Millions of writers are unpublished.
They are no less writers having not reached the end goal of publication.
And yet, after countless encounters in which I declared myself a writer, followed by the obligatory admission of my unpublished state, only to be dismissed by those who consider a writer only a writer if published, I found myself shying away from the assertion altogether.
What was the result?
It’s nothing earth-shattering. Only that, as I have made my way through adulthood, living and working, I've met many people along the way who have no idea who I am.
It struck me the other day as I was talking to a dear lady I’ve known for the last 15 years. I was telling her about my freelance writing business and I mentioned the book I’m currently writing.
Something in her expression told me this was surprising so I asked, “Did you know that I write books?”
And she replied, “No.”
Well, of course, how would she know? After I graduated high-school, about 15 years ago, writing took a backseat to survival, and I became very selective about when I declared I was a writer.
Prior to that, it was apparent to everyone around me, because I was writing my books all of the time, in school and at home. During my senior year in high-school, I was writing three novels, two of which I completed. They were all handwritten manuscripts. I can still recall the hand cramps.
The shortest of the three I went on to transcribe and then edit over the course of the next 15 years while working full-time and raising kids. Yikes! That's a long time on one book.
In my defense, I’ve had little time to dedicate to working on it, just small increments here and there. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist and I think any novelist would empathize when I say that I can always find something to edit, reshape, or rearrange when I read through it.
Roughly 5 years ago I began researching and planning the book I’m currently writing, a project that, like the last novel, is worked around a rather busy daily life.
A novel is a long-term commitment. It’s a process of building, constructing layers of meaning and emphasis. There is so much to consider; from the basic outline and plot to the overarching and underlying themes, from character definition and development, to the connectivity and discongruity of all the elements.
Writing a novel is like leading a double life. It’s living in another place and time.
Writing a novel is the wringing out of one’s heart and soul, and pouring them into a body of work designed to breathe and live on its own.
There is nothing more profound than this, nothing more demanding. And there is nothing I love to do more.
I am no less a novelist because I have not yet published.
Writing is in my soul and it’s the expression I have not ceased to practice since I was 7 years old. An artist must hone their craft; developing its style, sharpening its skills, and polishing its articulation with time and exercise. No project has been a waste, no story a failure, for each has facilitated growth.
There is no shame in the unpublished state.
There is no need to shy away from claiming what I am. A Novelist. Whether anyone else believes it, matters not. What’s important is that I know who I am and that I never let go of it.
And I wish the same for you! That you claim your passion, your talents, your gifts! I am confident that God has blessed each one of us with gifts and talents intended to enrich our lives as well as the lives of others. Let’s not waste them or hide them away!
Don’t let another person’s view of you be your validation either.
Don’t wait for someone else to certify or approve you. Rather, embrace what drives you and makes you unique! Then, take action to keep that passion alive.
Is it Music? Art? Charity? Sports? Gardening? Caregiving? Business? Outreach? Is it any other gift I don’t have time to list, that in so doing makes you feel the most completely YOU?
Whatever that is for you, be it - with all of your might!
I intend to keep on writing. Maybe one day I will even be published. Even if that never happens, I’ll know who I am.
Who are you?
-Jillian Kae Reimann