Becoming a Writer (or Not)

Him: What do you do?
Me: I write.
Him: Wow, you're a writer?
Me: No, I write.
Thanks to a few clicks on Amazon, I can even say I'm published, but am I a writer?

If you use the cheerleader definition, I write, so I'm a writer. Even when I want to quit, I still find myself composing in my head, so it has become a part of me. I know that my writing is better than average. I also realize that I could really use a skilled editor to tell me where to tighten and where to flesh out. I have three works-in-progress that could eventually be traditionally publishable novels, and I have four short stories and a memoir that are suitable for ebooks. All of them have more literary merit than some of the crap that you can buy.

But for most people, the real question is whether I can declare myself a paid professional writer. I used to joke that my goal for writing was to earn $17.34, the amount of my summer electric bill, so that I would be a writer by Stephen King's definition of being able to pay the utility bill with my income. My more ambitious hope was to earn enough to pay for a bimonthly house cleaner so that I could justify sitting at my computer instead of cleaning.

Unfortunately, what I can't do is self-promote, which makes the whole "indie author" thing somewhere between problematic and entirely fruitless. At $0.35 a shot, even if all of my family and friends bought my short story, I still wouldn't quite clear King's hurdle, and I have been steadily alienating everyone I've ever known, which clearly wasn't a long list to begin with. Over a couple of years, I got a small, fiercely loyal Twitter following, but my mental illness is running amok, and even 140 characters between virtual people in my phone is more personal interaction that I can stand. Without friends or social media, there is no practical way to advertise or create a following for my scribblings.

So lowering the goalposts yet again, I will continue to write books and upload files. They will be there on Amazon, gathering virtual dust, published, unpurchased, and unread, but if someone happens to ask, I can always say, "Yes, they're available on Kindle. I can send you the link."

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