Cellist Yo-Yo Ma often quotes fellow cellist Pablo Casals as saying “I am a human being first, a musician second, and a cellist third.”
I like this because I do not think of myself as a “writer.” It’s not how I would identify myself to someone I just met. Writing is a part of my life, but not something I put at the top. Perhaps this explains why I worked on my memoir for 13 years before it was published, or why my current in-progress project started in 1999.
If I were to riff on Casals’ quote, it would look something like this:
“I am a human being first, then a partner, a pet mom, a friend, a yogi, a runner, a cyclist, a teacher, a writer.”
Sure, I could move writing up the list. But at what expense? At the expense of my marriage? My health? My friendships?
When someone asks what I do, I can’t say “I’m a writer.” That would imply that writing sustains me economically. Not true — my full-time job as a professor that takes care of that.
I enjoy writing and at different times of my life it has felt like something inherent, something that I need to do. And most days I feel that way, but some days I don’t. Lately I haven’t, but I also haven’t sat down to create new writing for a while. Instead, I’ve been focused on editing and revising. I have kind of lost the “creating” mojo but I am working on something now in an attempt to get it back.
What about you? Where do you put “writing” as an identifier?
I have only just updated my website and Instagram profile to say that I’m a writer. I felt a bit silly because I don’t make my living from writing, but project manager doesn’t sound very exciting and I’m not managing any projects at the moment as I’m on leave.
I can understand your point very well. If someone asks what you do then professor sounds mighty fine to me, but for me, calling myself a writer was a brave step, if somewhat aspirational!
Having said that, I do like to identify myself as a human being first and foremost.