Many years ago back in the '70s when I was just beginning my teaching career, my professional organization, The National Association for the Education of Young Children did a survey. They polled teachers across the nation and asked how we referred to ourselves - our professional titles. Many members had full degrees, some had partial degrees, some had a few credits, some had no college but years of experience. Yet we all did exactly the same work. Only a few of us referred to ourselves as preschool teachers, even those who had advanced degrees. We called ourselves childcare attendants, teacher aides, child care assistants, early childhood educators, specialists etc. The theory was that society didn't view our occupation as valuable; they certainly didn't pay a salary commensurate with our multi-tasking capabilities. At that time, Pre K teachers were grossly underpaid compared to K-12 teachers. At a social event, when someone asked, "What do you do?" I hesitated to say, "Preschool teacher," because 90 % of the time people responded (& still do), "Oh, you do daycare." Or worse yet, "You BABYSIT."
I know a college instructor who is a fantastic published writer, but when asked her occupation, she prefers to tell people she is an English teacher. So why do we writers hesitate to refer to ourselves as such? I think it is because we think of ourselves as just FREELANCE writers, not full time writers who make a living at it. In my case, when someone asks what I do, I almost always mention my day job first; I think of that as my primary occupation, but more than that, maybe I have feelings of inadequacy… after all, I am just a freelancer, even though I have some notable publication credits. I do have confidence in my ability to write, but when I compare myself to 'real writers' like Stephen King or Maya Angelou I feel insignificant. After reading Bird By Bird, by Anne Lamott, I realize we all must have these insecurities.
I received a pittance of a check the other day, a stipend (my brother calls it an insult) for a story and also a poem published in an anthology, and I want to brag that I received 2 publishing credits. The book is on the shelf, but the first thing I am inclined to say is that it's not high quality work. Why do I do that? It was publishable.
Do you ever feel like you are not up to par despite your publishing credits? Because of a lack of them? Do you consider yourself a writer because you write or because you are published?
What holds you back/ propels you on?