An Author’s Identity

Sitting on a bed, a young woman ignores the advertisement rudely interrupting her jam session on Spotify. She does not cease her incessant typing, hell-bent on writing just one more sentence in her story.

She is in her element; she is full of inspiration and determination; she is omniscient and all-powerful in this moment; she is—writing utter drivel. It’s honestly so bad. What was she thinking? That’s not something that character would say! What kind of adjective is that? Should that even be a comma? No, no, it must be a semicolon. Why is her protagonist such a whiny crybaby? Is she projecting herself onto this poor guy?

How can she look people in the eye and confidently say that she’s a writer? How can she say that she’s writing novels when she can barely write a paragraph without stopping to delete three sentences and shift the spacing and remove the prologue and change the font and…

She is being way too hard on herself. She writes well, at least sometimes. She liked that piece she sent in to that sci-fi short story contest, even though she didn’t get any prize for it. She should probably stop typing in third person, though, because it’s boring and kind of pointless. Cue dialogue! Why think quietly to yourself when you can talk out loud to an empty room instead?

“Where was I going with this? Right, right! An author’s identity. First thing’s first: being an author is hard. There, I said it.”

No beating around the bush, this career path or hobby or whatever you want to call it is difficult. It’s why after years of time and effort, I’ve only just settled on writing three novels and a book of prose. I’ve thrown out countless ideas and early drafts of stories, re-written my work again and again, and yet–as of right now, anyway–I have very little to show for it.

I’m on chapter nine of one novel, chapter three of another, prose number ten of at least 100, and I’m on the search for the introduction of my last book, have been for the past 14 months, actually. See, I wrote it in a notebook somewhere. I haven’t found the notebook. Or maybe I have, but I can’t find the page.

Unless I ripped the page out and tossed it. Or hid it somewhere. Either way, I just know it has great stuff on it that I NEED to finish. Spoiler alert: it’s this really cool fantasy story about phoenixes and friendship. It has loads of potential.

I’m usually better with organization. Kinda. As in I use Google Drive. But this was prior to that. Back in my pencil and paper days…all those faded pages, smudged sentences, erase marks that were written over poorly…

I’m off-topic again. What this is supposed to be about is one’s identity as a writer. As an author, specifically. This is not a lesson on establishing voice in essays or making sure your tone fits your audience. This is about finding yourself in combinations of words that you write for all the wonderful, and occasionally terrible, reasons that any person writes creatively.

I’m not really an expert on this; I can admit that to myself and everyone who reads this. I babble in my work sometimes (see: basically everything above), use improper punctuation, jumble up my tenses, and have yet to publish a complete book. Despite all of this, I can still say that I have a real identity as an author.

And I’m not going to rant about how every author is a snowflake and humans are all unique because, in all honesty, it isn’t true. I don’t think of myself as especially creative. I’m not “the most” of anything or “the best” at something in particular. There are others in this big, wide world that see things the same way as I do. And that goes doubly so for my writing. I am, for all intents and purposes, average.

My work is, whether intentionally or not, just an extension of my experiences, my likes, my dislikes. My characters share traits with real people, with characters from other works. Those narrative devices you hear about like the hero’s journey? They’re as present and dare I say prevalent in my writing as they are in the stories you are already so familiar with.

I’m influenced by so many things: my friends, my family, my music (I’m listening to Elliot Moss as I type this), the books I’ve read, the places I’ve been. All of it encompasses who I am as a person and as writer. Not a single sentence of mine can be confidently submitted as entirely new or original: it’s just a different order of letters, in the end.

But my identity, though compiled from experiences that others have had and packaged into thoughts, attitudes, and values that can be seen in others throughout time, is still important. It still bears a connection with me, first and foremost. It doesn’t matter if my tone is reminiscent of some other author, or if my character sounds a lot like this one actor that everyone knows.

What matters is that at the end of the day, it was my fingers that hit the keyboard. It was my hands that dotted the t’s and crossed the i’s. It was my emotion that drove it forward. It was my soul that connected with the protagonist. It was my choice to share my story with the world. And that’s all an identity really is.

Some of us may chose to paint ourselves into our clothes, our hairstyles. Some of us sprinkle ourselves into the food we make or throw ourselves–head first–into our favorite sport.

Some of us like to split ourselves into other people, into pages and phrases that we want to see hit the shelves. And though a few of us might hide behind a pseudonym or ghost writers, we all have identities, crafted to embody some fragment of ourselves, that are integrated into our work and lives.

Regardless of the way we chose to go about it, our identities are our social currency and represent the level of comfort we have in our own skin. It’s the amalgamation of who I am, who any of us are, that we chose to accept in our hearts and minds, it’s the way we want to perceive ourselves and have ourselves perceived by others.

It’s who we want to be, our optimum versions, mixed with our real past and present selves. And it makes for a great character!

Maybe we aren’t all unique, special, or amazing because of what we do or how we see things. But we’re still made 100% original in the identities we make for ourselves. That’s worthy of being written into stories. And if you’re anything like me, you have a lot more writing to do.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Joanna Penn

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