Friday, January 20

Me, The "Real" Writer

I made the intention to write more on ye ole little blog, and what did I do, not write at all last week. Forgive me Father, for I am a Sinner.

Yesterday, as part of my "day job" we had our annual meeting of the minds, planning for the upcoming year ahead as well as look to the two approaching. As part of that annual review, my Editor-In-Chief gives the round up of byline articles. (A byline article in our publishing house is considering a full-length feature, so about 3,000 words, with photos.) I came in with 27: the most of any of our writers. By kind of a lot. (Six to be exact.) If one where to use editorial math, that's about one full-length college term paper every ten days.

Last year was really challenging at work in all the ways I never saw coming. But I wrote 27 features. I did 27 interviews, countless nights in Hampton Inns, and a few hundred thousand typos. I proved something to my superiors. Most importantly, I proved something to myself.

See, when you are a real writer—nothing against the bloggers out there hustling for a few hundred bucks in sponsored posts or freelance gigs, but when you are a writer whose family has health insurance because of your ability to tickle the keys, after years of schooling and seemingly insurmountable debt, it's a little different. There's something to prove not because you're out there hustlin', but because you sit in a space in a bullpen with taped up photos of your family and your favorite pen for jotting down notes.
There's always something to prove because you get to do this wonderful thing, you can be this super creative and undefined mess on a daily basis that’s a little bit magic, a little bit insane and a whole lot of nothingness.

But you have to prove your worth. I feel like I have to prove my worth, every single day. Prove every penny spent to put you in a coffee shop waiting for a 7:58 a.m. flight to nowhere is worth it. Inherently, I feel pressure attached to that.

Perhaps it's because I am a working mother now, and life as a writer and a mother isn’t how I saw it going in my mind. There are too many days where I am half a to-do list short or up too late drinking wine and watching television because I haven’t seen my husband, aside from a passing glance over morning coffee, in weeks.

Maybe my feelings of inadequacy at work stem from feelings of inadequacy at home. Lord knows I wouldn’t be the first working mother in that position, nor would I be the last.

Yet, when my boss and de facto mentor, read the totals yesterday morning everything came together. I belonged at the table I was sitting at. I felt a sense of pride in myself and my work that was almost selfish.

I had my "Hell yea mother fuckers, I volunteer, and mother twins, my husband doesn't abhor me most of the time, and I still cranked out more than you and they all did not affirmatively suck!!" moment. It felt so, so good.

Then it didn't. Then the doubt crept in and I was back in that CHOA-Egleston hospital room looking at my tiny son with all his wires and tubes and cords and I was so lost and unsure.

That's what being a real writer is. It's not the fun columns about breaking glass ceilings or finding clever ways to use hunting analogies in letters from the editor; it's realizing your shit can sometimes not stink, but only fleetingly. Luckily, in my case at least, the same fleeting confidence is what pushes me to write more, better, clearer, from the heart.
I'm not a poet; I'm not an essayist. I'm not a mommy blogger or a lifestyle blogger. I'm an English and Communications grad with a job in publishing I have no clue what I am doing with. And I'm just going to be okay. It will all work itself out because ten years ago I was going to be Rick Bragg or Elin Hilderbrand. Today I am Jessica Johnson and that means something. I've already turned in my first byline feature.

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