That’s when I usually blurt out "unpublished" just to get that over with, because, well, I don't like to make other people uncomfortable.
Like I am, in that moment.
I can’t yet tell this new acquaintance what they expect to hear. Some people—many people—seem to think a writer is a novelist who can pull a published book, with a cover and title and "by Brenda A. Haas" and bound and everything, from the depths of a very large purse (which is overflowing with multiple spare copies and also holds a high-quality writing utensil in case someone wants an autographed first edition on the spot).
Some people—many people—seem to think a book-signing event is going to break out at any moment.
That's what a real writer is, right? An author with a published book? And book-signing events?
Yeah. Not always.
I'm a writer. A real writer. But I am not what one traditionally thinks of as a real writer.
For about five years, I worked as a staff writer for a Pittsburgh newspaper. Before that, my personal essays had been published a number of times in various Pittsburgh papers and a North Carolina magazine. I also owned my own communications business, for a time, handling public relations and marketing for a number of non-profits and small businesses in the Pittsburgh and DC metropolitan area. The work was steady and relatively lucrative.
With the exception of the news writing, for which I produced hundreds of articles under my byline, much of the writing I've been paid to do has not had my name anywhere on it.
No credit. No book signing. Just $$$.
Currently, I call myself a freelance writer, blogger, and www.powerofpages.com webmaster. A lot of what I do now revolves around web content and social media, but I’ll write whatever comes my way, if I’m able, from home and usually in my pajamas.
Over the years, I've paid for vacations with my writing. I've helped put a down payment on a house with my writing. I've put clothes on my children's backs, bought new sheets for my bed, paid a vet bill or two, purchased a college dorm rug, and even bartered a gutter cleaning service for my home ... all with my writing.
Yes, most of the writing I do—the writing that has actually seen print and garnered that $$$—is not what many people consider “real” writing. I'm not a published author, folks. Not yet, anyway (and for no lack of trying). I'm a marketing/advertising/public relations/news writing/essay slinging/web content Girl Friday who knows how to make non-writers look good in the public eye. And THAT'S how I earn my paychecks on any given day.
While I write for others, I also work on my own fiction projects, any of which might see print someday. Or not. Who’s to say?
Still, I'm a writer.
Perhaps not a famous-ish, bestselling, book-on-a-Barnes-&-Noble-shelf-autograph-signing type of writer, but a real writer.
—And maybe a little uncomfortable.
Facebook writing account: @writerbrendahaas
Artwork by Michelle Haas https://www.instagram.com/mhaas_art/
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