Mark Terry

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Who Are You?

June 7, 2008
I'm having something of an identity problem and I bet some of you do, too.

I'm a writer.

Yep, that fits.

I'm a freelance writer. Definitely.

I'm a novelist. Well, I'm clinging to it; some days it's tough, but it's probably important that "novelist" remain part of my core identity.

Let's go back to freelance writer for a moment. I didn't realize quite how much this was part of my core identity until I took a contract job recently that at least on one level appears to be a full-time job working in a chain of command for a corporation.

And I'll tell you, I'm having some serious, serious issues with this. Possibly terminal issues, I'll say, without going into details about that. A lot of that has to do with what I perceive to be the things about being a freelancer that have value to me--independence, ownership, flexibility. And when those core values start being compromised, I start (am starting) to have some issues.

I think for a writer this can be a pretty big deal. Maybe it is for everyone. Maybe the key to being a successful novelist is knowing that, at the core, you're a "novelist." Maybe it's true if you're a musician, a dishwasher or a CEO. Maybe it's the difference between a "job" and a "career."

I don't know. But I know that, despite my current emotional turmoil, "freelance writer" is as important a core value as "writer" is for me.

How about you? I'm sure there are core identities like wife, husband, father, mother, etc., that are important, but I'm thinking in the world of writing.


Mark Terry


Blogger spyscribbler said...

I just lump it into writer. Novelist isn't really a word I think of in terms of anyone; it's just not part of my active vocab. I don't know why.

Writer and pianist pretty much cover it for me. Sometimes I just lump it together and call myself an artist, but that's confusing to people, so I mainly just do that myself.

Most times I feel like four people. I have my life compartmentalized into four email addresses. It's kind of creepy.

6:58 AM  
Anonymous Jw Johnson said...

I used to call myself an aspiring writer. Not anymore. Just because I am not published doesn't mean I'm not a writer. Now a part time writer is a pretty good description and I can only dream of doing it full time at the moment.I can only imagine what it would be like to be able to devote to writing full time. Something I need to work on.

7:39 AM  
Blogger Maria Zannini said...

I'm with spyscribbler. I label myself a writer and I don't break it down any further than that. I have a novel out, do some freelancing on the side, and occasionally get sucked into doing the corporate thing.

They're all writing jobs, only some are preferable than others. The corporate jobs pay better, but they suck all the fun out of life. Novels take an enormous amount of time with more emotional return than cash, but simple freelance gigs are the most enjoyable.

I do each job with the understanding that they fill different needs: cash, ego stroking, and/or independence. Only one of them is necessary for all three identities and that's the cash.

8:11 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Nice breakdown. And a nice reminder.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Hi Mark:
I think of myself as a writer. And though the bulk of my income is from writing novels . . . I also write magazine articles, some business writing . . . some ghosting. I still love editing and do it on occasion. Keep my hand in it.

So writer/editor does it for me. Though no matter what I say . . . it always begs the question "Well, what do you write?" And I hate that question.


P.S. Every time I work with big companies, I am grateful for the cash, but I am reminded that there are so many sheer JERKS who rise to the top without ANY sense of being decent to other people.

10:10 AM  
OpenID eric-mayer said...

I've come to realize that "freelance" or "self-employed" is more important to me, more important to my view of myself, than "fiction writer." Not having to take orders from people, not having to punch a clock, are more important than writing stories in the scheme of my life.

It sounds iike you might have a difficult problem. Last year I had to let go of one big client. It was scary, and it put me in a more precarious position, but the client was just getting too pushy. The client wanted to keep seeing work in progress, and sent too many emails and wanted to be able to talk to me on the phone all the time and it began to feel a little too much like having a boss barging into my house. (and why do corporations pick pathologically anti-social people to "manage" people by the way?) "Luckily" the pay was crappy. I was working at a loss to keep more baskets available. So it wasn't too hard to make the decision. Hope you can come to a good decision you can live with easily.

By the way, like spyscribbler I maintain different email addresses for my different personalities/functions.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

The people are fine--I think--but within 48 hours of signing the paperwork I started to feel the paranoia that I associate with the corporate culture, the whole, "does 'we want you to have ownership' of this position" mean:

1. We want you to be in charge and do things the way you think they should be done as long as we get results.


2. If you fuck it up, you're the one we get to blame.

And I gotta tell you, chain-of-command kicked in early and I thought, "Uh-oh, this isn't what I thought I was signing up for."

--I think you nailed my thoughts exactly.

11:24 AM  
Blogger MissWrite said...

I know exactly what you are talking about. I do things to make money that 'involve' writing, but those things are not who I am as a writer. They are just a job. The part of me that is defined by my writing is what I do because I love it. (And I better be doing it for love, cause I sure ain't doin' it for money, lol.)

8:19 AM  

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