Today, after yoga, I had coffee on the prom with a writer of an acclaimed debut collection of stories, who was currently working on an essay about Anais Nin and procrastinating on her interview with The Paris Review. She is a writer: reviewed and acknowledged by others, gives readings at festivals, given accolades. I was glad for her, but I felt a little ashamed afterwards, thinking of the essay I had submitted recently. I think, I am a fraud. (That smudge of self-loathing in the thwarted heart, I'm afraid!)
Daragh says that, in Ireland, real writers are people who get published and make money off their writing. Otherwise, writing is only a hobby. But I think about Vivian Maier, whose work was posthumously discovered and celebrated. She did not earn money as a photographer. Nor was her oeuvre published or exhibited while she was alive. There are other numerous, more anonymous examples. If someone said to me, right now, I am a poet, I am an artist, I would accept that, even if I have never read their poetry or seen their work, even if they have never published a poem or exhibited a piece. It feels wrong to say otherwise, like a lack of faith in human potential, which to me, as a scholar of utopia, is an abject vice.
I identify as a writer, maybe to my detriment. I think that the jottings I make everyday, the essays and poems and reviews of mine that have been published, the need to edit and think through every sentence I have ever written, my deep interest in the ideas and processes of writers, all that activity somehow makes me a writer. It makes me upset because I think sometimes this is all for naught. Wah, wah, wah, right? Oh the violins I played into my lunch of scrambled eggs. I need to leave my ego in my diary.
Daragh advises me on what is or isn't a writer in Ireland only for my sake, because people can be unkind. I need to guard my ambitions closely. I think I do, but I tell my friends, and I probably shouldn't. I feel like I'm still dealing with the consequences of telling my dad I was taking writing classes at Berkeley. 20 years! Anyways, what I really need to do is finish this dissertation, and then I can go full tilt into the future.