I’ll Be A Real Writer When

November 20, 2018 § 17 Comments


By Janine Canty

I could give a five hour talk on how I’m not a Real Writer.

When I was 18 and headed to college for journalism I believed the Real Writers all lived in New York and had their shit together. They smoked long cigarettes, and had voices like gravel mixed with honey.

I did not make it to college. Because I didn’t have my shit together. I got knocked up to a Meatloaf song instead.

I almost forgot the writing dream in the ensuing years.

Newborn babies that kept coming. Two AM feedings. Colic. Stretch marks. Mastitis and ice in my bra.

Then I took the writing dream and I hid it deep. Because the boy I married was made out of mean. He wanted to own every part of me. And the things he couldn’t own, he destroyed. So I buried my writing dream.

Then I got divorced and I dug that sucker up.

And I wrote. Blog posts at first mostly. I wrote and I waited to feel like a Real Writer.

At first I thought: Well, I’ll be a Real Writer when more than 3 people read my blog. Or when someone outside of my family says: Hey, Janine, your writing doesn’t suck.

I got 30 followers. I waited to feel like a Real Writer.

I got 40 followers. People outside of my family began saying: Hey, Janine, your writing doesn’t suck.

I waited to feel like a Real Writer.

50 followers.

60 followers.

Still didn’t feel it.

Then I began playing the “I’ll Be A Real Writer When” game.

I’ll be a Real Writer when I have an MFA.

When I have my picture on a dust jacket.

When I have my shit together.

When I learn to type.

When I get paid.

When I understand my writing process.

When I have an actual writing process.

On and on.

When I am actually published. Not self published.

Then I was actually published.

I screamed. I stepped on a cat. I had a toilet brush in my hand.

I waited to feel like a Real Writer.

Nada.

Maybe that one essay was a fluke?

So I wrote a second essay. It, too, was published. It won the Freshly Pressed award from WordPress.

It went viral.

And I waited to feel like a Real Writer.

I was invited to go to Vermont to a writing retreat. With actual Real Writers.

My inner voice screamed: Janine, what the actual fuck are you doing??

I went to Vermont and I waited to feel like a Real Writer.

I kept submitting to different online sites while I waited to feel like a Real Writer.

I’ll be a Real Writer when I have an essay published in print. When I can hold my words literally in my hands.

When I can touch my name on a paper byline, I’ll be a Real Writer.

I got published in print.

I held my essay literally in my hands.

I touched my name on a paper byline.

And I waited to feel like a Real Writer.

I sat in an Italian restaurant across from a Real Writer. She was every bit as luminous as her words. She took my breath away.

She looked at me and she said: Janine, your writing doesn’t suck. Or maybe she just said: Janine, pass the parmesan cheese. I was awestruck and leaving my body.

I sucked harder on my Long Island Iced Tea.

And I waited to feel like a Real Writer.

How about this?

I wrote constantly during that summer.

I felt nothing like a Real Writer.

Because surely a Real Writer would know what works and what doesn’t?

That essay got published on a site I’d coveted. Dreamed of. It was the brass ring of online publications.

I pinched myself to make that feel real.

And I waited to feel like a Real Writer.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

The real writers don’t necessarily have their shit together.

Some will have an MFA.

Some won’t.

They will all have different voices.

They will all have a different writing process.

Or maybe they won’t have a writing process at all.

I think the thing that makes a writer real. Is the words.

The words they are willing to lose sleep and maybe a little bit of sanity for.

The words they will do anything for.

It’s not about the money for the real writers.

It’s about the words.

It’s always about the words.

And not giving up on the words.

________________________________________________
Janine Canty is a human trying to pose as a writer. She doesn’t believe she makes words happen. Words make her happen. Her online work has appeared on The Manifest-Station, Literary Orphans, The Rumpus, The Weeklings, and Sweatpants & Coffee. She has an in-print essay featured in the literary journal The Dandelion Review. She lives in Northern Maine and can be found on Facebook.

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