But what do you call a hungry writer?


As I celebrate the publishing of my first book and the subsequent work that must be done to create awareness of it, I began wondering what to call myself now.

In its most basic form, obviously, I could finally label myself an author.  I had made a non-existent distinction between the word “author” and the word “writer”, claiming I was still a writer until I got published (for doesn’t everyone write a lot in their lives?).  It’s an artificial and purely personal choice, the old “all authors are writers, but not all writers are authors” chestnut.  That variation is used for a thousand things.

But that’s not really where I was going with this post.  What I wanted to figure out was, what do I call myself now?

Here I am, at the very birth of my new career.  No fame, no Major Publisher marketing support, no NY Times book review.  Just little old (well, not that old) me with my little old (well, brand new, really) book in a sea of thousands of other authors and books.  A minnow, if you will, in an ocean of publications.  Absent immediate “lightning-in-a-bottle” success, it should be a tough and costly sea to navigate.

I thought about other creative fields and how they seem to have their own “brand” for suffering.  Almsot a copyright, you might say.  So commonplace are the terms that they probably deserve to be capitalized.

There’s the Starving Artist.  Disheveled hair, wearng offbeat clothing, bearded (the men, although possibly some of the women, too — who can say, they’re artists, after all).  Typically, their work is equally odd or hard to look at (if their stuff was good, they wouldn’t be starving, would they?).  Soon they will be discovered.  Soon.  Hmm.  Taken.

Also gone is the Stuggling Actor.  Stereotypically waiting tables or performing some similar hourly wage job that allows them regular contact with the public to emote their angst over being trapped in this job that is so wrong for them; too small for their talent as they wait for their “big break”.  Surely, just around the corner.  Surely.

Musicians have it easy.  They’ve got a boatload of names.  There’s the Street Musician.  The Club Musician.  The Wandering Minstrel.  Gosh, why even bother trying to be a success when you’ve already got so many cool names?  Just wait for one of those TV talent shows to hit your area.

But if all those were taken, what could I call myself in my own upcoming titanic battle against the forces of Established Publishing?  David vs. Goliath was too biblical.  Little Writer that Could was too derivative (and I don’t need any more reminders about my height, anyway).  Suffering Writer sounded too melodramatic (unless spoken by Daffy Duck).

Maybe I didn’t have what it took after all?  I claimed to be a writer, but I couldn’t even come up with a decent name for my impending trials as I attempted to raise my book above the noisy melieu of the thousands of other books.  Because, obviously, my book was more fun to read.  Duh.  It was my responsibility…no, my duty, to get this book into readers’ hands.  Your hands.  For your benefit.  You needed this book.  You wanted this book.   Oops, movie riff, sorry.  I just had a Struggling Actor spill soup in my lap.

Finally, at the very depths of despair, at the very end of the countless time spent in this task.  (It was about eight or ten minutes, I’d guess.  Halftime of a Gator game.)  I was at the verge of giving up.  Not just the name search, but writing.  Forever.  And, really, if I gave up writing, was there even anything else to live for?  (Well, maybe the second half of the Gator game, although maybe not even that considering their ugly season.)

Life, it seems, had more planned for me.  From the recesses of my distant past came an email from my old childhood friend.  He wrote words of encouragement and he used a term when referring to me that stirred my soul, lifted my spirits, raised my hopes, made the sun rise, brought peace o’er the land and settled my stomach from the chips and hot salsa.  Freely did he give of himself and allow me to use his term.  And thus, do I unveil to you the answer to my topic question:

Impoverished Author.

I love it!  It combines all the best (worst?) qualities of the other creative area names but carries the undeniable air of literacy.  Why, you can almost envision the noble desperation combined with resolute determination as I cart the lone remaining dog-eared copy of my book from place to place, exhausting my final dollars, my last strength in my solemn, nay, holy quest to give you more enjoyable reading.

This is only a temporary solution, of course.  I’ll only be able to use this terrific name until my book becomes successful.  Then I’ll be stuck with those trite and overused labels like “Best-Selling Author” and “Unbelievable Treasure”.  I think I still have some time.

In the meantime, I’m set.  Thanks to a little help from my friends.  Oops, music riff, sorry.  I just had a Street Musician throw his tip plate at me.  I’m outta here before I get that bearded-artist guy mad at me too.  Oops, sorry ma’am, the beard fooled me.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)