“So, you’re a writer,” she said.
I felt a panic flood my body that had nothing to do with the icepick she was holding inches from my face.
This dentist appointment had started out so harmlessly. I’ve had the same dental hygienist for ten years, and we have no problem chatting about life, the universe, and everything. She asked me what I did for Thanksgiving. I asked how her daughter was doing in college. We covered the advantages of gift cards over cash, and we talked about my students. I told her about the castle…and then I mentioned my blog.
“So, you’re a writer.”
I suddenly understood how deer feel when they’re caught in the cross-hairs of high beams.
Saying, “I’m a writer,” conjures images of smoky, dimly lit coffeehouses where I scribble furiously in a leather-bound journal, mutter cryptic half-sentences, and gaze existentially at a portrait of Che Guevara. It implies soul-searching, star-gazing, and a propensity to find deeper meaning in everything from steeping tea to flushing the toilet. Claiming to be a writer is claiming to be creative, frustrated, and often penniless.
Saying, “I’m a writer,” means I have to write. I must produce. Because once I stop writing, I’m no longer a writer. I’m just someone who sometimes writes.
Once I know I have to do something, I no longer want to do it. It becomes a chore, a drudgery, a resentment.
“Um, no. I’m not a writer. Just, sometimes I think funny things. And sometimes I write them down.”
She laughed and stuck the icepick back in my mouth.