Back in October, I took a workshop through the Georgia Writers Association called "Funding Streams for Writers." While I did get some helpful tips about freelance work, promotion, etc., I think the most valuable piece of advice I gleaned from that day was when the facilitator said,
"The number one thing you should be doing is making sure you are known first and foremost as a writer."
That struck me, hard. I wrote it down. Then I circled it. Then I drew a star next to it. Because I knew this was advice I needed to hear, see, read, and read again.
I wear a lot of hats. Most people do. Obviously, I'm a wife, daughter, friend, sister, etc. And any of the people who know me from wearing those hats--those people also know me as a writer.
But I also make and sell jewelry. Work in a yarn shop. Teach knitting lessons. Run social media for a classical music venue. I take odd, random jobs that I can do at home in my sweatpants while watching movies (earlier today, I spent two hours stuffing googly eyes, pipe cleaners, and other oddments into ziplock bags so kids can make puppets out of them).
All that's good. I'm proud of my resourcefulness and ability to cobble a living together without having to spend my days at a soul-sucking job in a windowless office (been there...not my thing). I like being creative, helping other people be creative, and doing things with my hands.
However. When I heard the above quote, I realized it was absolutely not true for me. People who buy my jewelry, unless they're friends of mine, don't know me as a writer. Yarn shop customers I've known for years--most of them think of me as a knowledgeable and helpful salesperson, and they're unaware of this blog or any of my other writing activities. Not that any of it's a secret, but because somewhere along the way, WRITING and STUFF I DO TO MAKE A LIVING became compartmentalized in my life.
One of my knitting students was surprised to learn I had other, non-teaching jobs. In her mind, I am a teacher. That startled me, because in my mind, teaching knitting is something I just happen to know how to do, that people are willing to pay me for. I don't consider myself a teacher, just...someone who teaches. (If that makes sense, and I'm aware that maybe it doesn't.)
Making ends meet is important, obviously, but I've been letting that overshadow something equally (if not more) important. So I'm trying to make more of an effort to be known as a writer, whether that's how I make my living or not--putting more writing content on this blog; starting a Twitter account that I use almost exclusively to talk about writing stuff with other writers; telling some of my yarn shop customers and knitting students about my upcoming VSC residency.
One of the things I'm most looking forward to about VSC, in fact, is being immersed in a culture where I don't have to be anything but a writer. I'm sure I'll make friends there, and we'll get to know other things about each other's lives, but while I'm there, WRITER will be my primary identity.
I look forward to seeing who I will be when I'm removed from the context of ordinary daily life, wearing my writer hat.