• CJ Johnson
  • Admiting to yourself that you're a writer
Admiting to yourself that you're a writer
Written by
CJ Johnson
November 2011
Written by
CJ Johnson
November 2011

I am in a sticky, overwhelming, and frustrating position. I am a writer. However, I make my main living working in retail management and generate a decent amount of money each month as a Copy Writer. I do write for a living. And I mean that in the purest sense.


I am not however, anything else. I am not a retail manager. I have worked in retail since my teens, and outside of the three years I was a school teacher, it is the only thing I've been qualified to do "on paper" and get a paid position in. Every day that I have to work in retail management, I feel is a day wasted. I want to write freely and as my vocation. Granted, my copy writing business is really picking up now and it is becoming harder and harder to write for clients and work full-time.


Most people would think I am crazy. Here I am, saying that I am not a retail manager, when that is all that some people have ever known me as. Only a handful of my friends know how seriously I take writing. Making the decision to set a goal of making writing my "true" living and vocation has been a recent one, September to be exact.


When I had to miss another good poetry reading because I had to "close my store" a certain night, coupled with the paltry sum that I am paid (which in retail, you are never compensated for your college education, URGH), I said enough, is enough, that September day. I am a writer DAMN IT! I realize now that I love working alone, do not like being told what to do, or telling adults what to do.


I was laid off from my job as an English teacher (I had no seniority in my school) due to a budget shortfall. The only other "work experience" on my resume was retail. It is the only industry I could land FT work. I also thought I had no options. I began freelancing just to supplement my income. Now, I am confident that it can more than double my present income if I can pursue writing full-time.


However, being a FT writer to some is scary. I do not have the most supportive family and life partner. I come from a clan that is steeped in tradition and stability. Always have a salary and benefits type tradition. I want to scream "I am a laid-off TEACHER" and that there is no such thing as stability and job security.


I want "out" so bad but know that everyone in my life will think I am nuts unless I have like 9 months of living expenses saved up (not possible while working FT, unless I want to take another 2 years to accomplish such, LOL). But seriously, I know that I am a writer. Granted the idea of pursing writing FT scares my mother, she has always encouraged me to write often and write well. However, I just want to scream, "I am not a Manager" and walk away from the retail rat race and slide into my yellow Parsons desk and write all day. I do not want to have to continue to try to be successful at something professionally that I am just not comfortable doing, its not innate in me. I've been "faking" it for too long and this masquerade is getting tiresome. And its all in the name of needing "a FT job with benefits". I am confident in my abilities as a writer, I am just afraid to say I want to WRITE full-time to my loved ones and colleagues. I am not afraid to make the leap, but I am afraid of scaring them, disappointing them, and not having their support. Those three notions are what stop me from being the best damn professional in "my" chosen field possible. I feel hopeless.


Has anyone else had a difficult time admitting they were a writer to themselves and/or to their loved ones?

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  • CJ Johnson

    We are coming into our own as writers, and this site has been a great forum for us to discuss our fears and successes as we pursue our writing endeavors. Thanks ladies for your words of encouragement. I feel soooo not alone after posting this issue of mine. I feel very grateful for having a destination to "get out, and work out" my frustrations and desires as a writer, with other women writers. We ROCK!!!

  • Jodi Su Tharan

    Yes! I needed to read this. Thank you! I asked my kids what they tell their friends  when they ask, "What does your Mom do?" The first reply was, "Oh, I tell them you work at a school. And last year you taught a class there, too." (I work in Student Services. I almost started crying! "Why don't you tell them I am a writer?" "Because you don't make money writing." Me, "Oh, my goodness! I can not believed I raised you people! Money is not what makes us who we are."

    The good news is that I am finding that all the jobs I have had, classes I have taken and adventures I have been on make great fodder for my characters.

    It is good, so good, to know we are not alone.

    Thanks again!

    p.s. I am new to She Writes and really happy to be here. ~ Jodi

  • Cristina Dimen

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, C.J. I empathize with you. Due to my own crazy schedule and parenting responsibilities, I've had to put my writing career on the back burner for years...until, like you, I had my "ah ha" moment (several) in 2003.

    For me, it wasn't as difficult to admit I'm a writer as it was trying to figure out "what" type of writer I am. There are so many options, after all. It was hard to focus and define myself, especially since I could envision myself doing and writing so many things. Well, I've embraced that I'm a nonfiction writer with a passion for travel. My writing focuses on travel, lifestyle and parenting (I write for parenting mags to supplement my income).

    As with any freelance writer, it's hard to focus on my novel writing (cool fictional with lots of true-to-life aspects) when there are bills to pay. So, I completely understand your worries. So yes, I believe your copywriting projects will help you pay those bills. Otherwise you'll be too stressed out trying to figure out where the money will come from to support your writing. And, yes, it's hard to juggle everything. But, like Regina said, don't be afraid to declare yourself a writer. It's your passion, and you won't feel truly fulfilled until you embrace it. I still get looks of surprise and even had my mother-in-law tell me last week that perhaps I should get a traditional job! What? She doesn't know I have regular assignments...but, still.

    Anyway, keep plugging along, and embrace your passion.Happy writing.


  • Regina Y. Swint

    Hi, C.J.,

    I think that with time, you'll move past the fear of scaring, disappointing, or alienating loved ones (not having their support), and come into your own fear of not following your heart.  You sound like you have the passion for writing, but your love is still in the proving stages.  I'm fortunate that I've never had any difficulty admitting that I'm a writer, and I sympathize with those of you who do/have such difficulties.

    I have a full-time job, with benefits, thank goodness; and that full-time job is a siginificant part of who I am as well; but being a writer is the what that "lights me up."  I won't trade or give that up for anyone or anything.  They'll either get it or they won't.  They can love me with/without loving what I do, and I'm cool with that.

    I just hope you'll stay encouraged and continue to grow and strengthen yourself through your writing, especially if you know that you're good at it.  At the end of the day, you've got to take risks and take chances and do what lights you up, because that what breathes life into you, i.e., you "write for a living."  I get it.  But at some point, you've got to stand up and be about it, regardless of whatever whoever happens to think about it.  Meanwhile, time marches on.

    Do what pays the bills, of course, but don't hesitate to speak up and let the world know that you're a writer (outside of your blog), no matter what family and friends seem to think of it.  I'm sure you'll continue to find all kinds of support right here on She Writes to help you pull up and through that snaggy and hopeless moments.  Those moments will pass.  And some of it will probably be painful.  But it will be worth it.  :)

  • Dorian Burden

    For years I could not call myself a writer. In my case, I think it was about me rather than a lack of support from others. My husband (we're now separated) gave me a t-shirt that said "I write" on it. But I couldn't wear it--until the last couple of years. I've been a teacher for the last 13 years but I worked for 10 years in magazines before that. I think I left partly because I was never going to do the kind of writing I wanted to there. Still, I didn't believe in myself and wasn't ready to be open enough and revealing enough to write "the story." Now I tell people I am a writer. No one has trouble believing me--even though I make money another way. And somehow, for me, making money another way has helped free me up psychologically (not time-wise)to do my writing. Good luck!

  • Valerie Deering

    Thank you for sharing this, CJ.  I appreciate your writing.  Please continue and remember, everything in it's time.

  • Maery Rose

    It's not difficult for me to say but it is difficult to explain to people. I took a few days off to kickstart my sagging creative writing practice. Saying that when people ask what you are doing on your vacation when you're not even making any money from it and "You're writing what?" they say incredulously. I'm a technical writer in my "need a job and benefits" world and I'm old, with no second income, so there's no escape (from what I hear, no escape perhaps ever). And the technical writing makes me not want to bother even getting up in the morning. But I'm doing my heart and passion writing when I can and I'll finish my book. Whether it's ever published is a whole other matter. If you have some clients and believe you can get more, freelancing sounds like a definite option.

  • Marie-Eve Boudreault

    I understand what you say. I've just accepted my "destiny" of being a writer myself. I have been by some detours, but the good thing is that they serve me in my writing, as my sociology degree.

    You're courageous for stating it. It's the first step to live a life you love. You could start building income with writing more of what you love to write and finding way to get paid for it. Maybe a book? You could write one in a year with just few minutes a day.

    Helping people do what they love is a mission of mine, so if you're interested to get more info take a look at my blog I'm actually blogging my book Do What You Love, a method to start living off your passions: http://behappyanddowhatyoulove.com/blog.

  • CJ Johnson

    Thanks ladies for your insight. @Barbara, you are completely right, others in my life will "do them" and be who they want, and some I suspect want to do more, but don't feel empowered enough to do so, OR are really that comfortable with the corporate life (and I totally respect that, its just not me). I've have got to remember that though while I carve out my life as a writer :)

  • Barbara H. Horter

    Supporting yourself doesn't mean just financially but also supporting your own drive toward what you know you are, a writer. You do not have to remove yourself from the traditional living that seems to be the strong point in your fear of admitting what you want for yourself. if you read over what you just wrote, you HAVE admitted you want to be a full time writer. You are not your friends and family and they are not you. I have lived long enough (I'm 71) to know that people will go on as they have no matter what you do, so in this life that belongs to you, you must do what your heart and soul tells you. The joy you feel in persuing your craft (in spite of what anybody else says) will carry you through. I hope for your success and you just may be surprised at how little your desires affects others as they will still go about THEIR lives as they will. AND if friends are true friends, they will honor your decision and wish you the best. Negativity is toxic and should not be accepted no matter how it may be masqued as being spoken for your own good by others. Your self sufficiency is commendable and I think you deserve to be exactly what you are. Only YOU can make that happen. Blessings my dear lady! One more thing. When I am in a quandary as how and what to say to someone or about something, I say a prayer and ask my Father to put the words in my mouth in such a way as I may speak the truth. The truth cannot be wrong.

  • Alice Louise Karow

    CJ, I remember the huge shift from being an employee to being a self employed business owner -- wow! I felt 100% better about myself and my place in the world. I did find that my own business didn't get going until I quit my 'day job' and had the time and energy to give it.

    And, it's true that family members kind of treated me as if I were the new chauffer, handyperson around the house, babysitter, etc. because, in their view, I didn't have a job anymore so I didn't have anything to do!

    I've found support from a local writers/publishers group - it kept me acknowleding my identity as a writer and renewed my enthusiasm. Nothing can replace a great peer group of like-minded entrepreneurs!


    All the best to you and Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Skywalker Payne

    Sister, if you don't have children and are not overburdened with debts free yourself and write. However, as one who has been writing all her life, with little publication and attempting to return - I've learned that even the most successful and published writers have other jobs to live on - many in academia. If you don't want to go the route of the MFA (which you're young enough to do and it opens many doors) - forget what your family wants - BE FREE - enjoy your life. I lived a free life as a young adult, I never held a job for more than two years until I became a nurse  (and I've been doing that 4 years) oddly enough, having financial stability has led to me being more productive as a writer. And if you do have free lance clients keep building that work up - and get a part time job. Don't limit yourself, you're too young! And believe me, living the free, creative life keeps you young and happy. Good luck.

  • Kayann Short, Ph.D.

    Check out A Broom of One's Own by Nancy Peacock. Hilarious stories of cleaning houses to support her writing--even after she's published a novel! Her clients try to convince her to quit cleaning and write full-time, as if she's cleaning because she loves it, not because she needs the money. Her insights on writing while working are witty and helpful!

  • Melody Fuller

    Ok, let the economy keep sliding and you will no longer have this *issue*. LAUGHS!


    I've been in my bat cave for a few weeks (writing) so, you will have to accept my apology if that is not funny. (Ah...practicing my *wit* for the in-laws during this holiday season!)

    Ok, back to you.  You are a writer with benefits.  Many families don't get the writer part, but with your determination, they will.  Just keep reminding them that you are a writer during Thanksgiving Dinner.  Stick the ball point pen in the turkey instead of the themometer...Use your rough drafts as place mats...Make each one critique a page after dessert.  Work it!



  • Madison Sonnier

    I know how it feels to not have support from your family. My mom is the only person in my family who supports me wanting to be a writer. You just can't bring yourself to worry about what they think though. This is YOUR life and you deserve to pursue what makes you happy. You have to fight for it even if everyone seems to oppose. 


    I personally prefer happiness over money. I'm not very money motivated. I just want to be able to live and do something fulfilling with my life. 


    "Happiness is the key to success. As long as you're doing what you love, you will be successful." 


    Best of luck to you on your writing journey! 

  • Kim Mason

    wow. awesome post cj.  to simply mouthed the words, "I'm a writer" still feels strange to me as well. i think it's more than just claiming the identity. when writing is tapped as a REAL passion, it's inherently apart of your DNA. i'm a visual artist, who has struggled with framing my identity to include "writer" for a long time, until I realized that, ART was the core of it all.


    As for the pressure to stop pursuing the American Dream for financial stability?...you're preaching to the universal choir! the reality of paying life-sustaining bills have deterred my artistic endeavors long enough as well, and there is so REAL substitute for the sabbatical of time and focus required to really write.


    I'd say, the struggle you're describing, IS A STORY. and sharing it in narrative will be great for you... stay up.


  • Kathryn Graves-Messer

    I too have had many articles and poetry published, but didn't bother to tell anyone because of their reaction--especially poetry. I managed to work a full-time corporate job for three years while secretly completing my MFA(I used 100% of my vacation time and just told coworkers I was visiting family). It's been three years and I'm still writing and getting published--and still not saying a word. It's like I lead a double life.


    When I finished my MFA, I told myself that I would begin to work towards a writing life. I set some goals of quiting the corporate life within a 2-year time period, but I'm still having trouble trying to build a freelance business (to support myself) while working full-time. I don't have to make six figures--just a decent living. 


    I'm trying so very hard to keep my promises to myself. Thinking of leaving the corporate world and writing full-time is what keeps me breathing. There are days when I seriously have to leave the office for a time period so that I can just keep myself sane. I want to use freelance work to pay the bills and continue to work on my novel, but I just have trouble finding extra energy and confidence to make the change. I too have no support. They look at me like I'm crazy to leave a corporate job in this economy. Maybe some of you can share some success stories to encourage those of us stuck at a 9-5 that we hate. I'm not an insurance person...I'm a writer, I'm a writer.

  • Jackie Petersen

    i have been job hunting for the last two and a half years, and haven't had any luck whatsoever.  So, lately I've been focusing more effort into my writing.  I still do my usual job-hunting rounds in the morning, but after 11 I am in full writer mode.  I haven't had the opportunity to make money from it yet (I'm very fortunate to have someone willing and able to support me while I try to make it out there), but I consider myself a writer and writing to my JOB.  It took a long time for me to be able to admit that to my family and friends, and now that I have most of them don't think it's worth the time.  But the more I write, the better I get, the easier it'll be to make something out of this.  It just takes time and perseverance.  

  • Carleen

    I'm a published author and I still sometimes feel this way. I think it comes with the territory...if that's any consolation. Or maybe knowing that even if you decide to write full time, you will still struggle with doubts and wonder about the roads you didn't take is unnerving. If that's the case, I apologize! LOL Whatever you do, don't worry about your mom or your friends. If you can justify your choices to yourself, you're living right. That's all that counts.

  • CJ Johnson

    Thanks Mary for the reflective feedback. Its amazing how so many of "us" feel alone in our journey to become our greatest when there are communities such as this one to foster our good intentions and aspirations. I think the lonliness comes in when you do not have the familial support that we desire because they are our kin, we live with them, so naturally we want to appease them, unfortunately sometimes its at the detriment of ourselves.

  • Mickie Sherwood


    Now that you've admitted you're a writer, it is reality. Sometimes family and friends just don't get it. I mean, my husband teases me. He'll ask, "Do you hear that? Listen. That's your computer calling you." You know what? Most times he right. The next thing I know I'm seated and don't even remember my feet getting me to my cubbyhole.

    Why not get paid for doing something you love? Go for it!


  • CJ Johnson

    I think you all make valid points. Yes, its a little scary to have your "loved ones" check out your work. Knowing that they are going to make an opinion is tough because you have to live with your family/friends. However, I am beyond the point of sharing too much cause I feel that like Veronica stated, you just have to "show them" how much time and effort you put into your work. I am coming to terms more and more daily that I am a writer and that even if I do not have the support I would like in this endeavor, its not going to stop me. Since I have finally "admitted" to myself that I am a writer, I have generated more income from it than previously. It's no longer something I am doing or pursuing in hiding anymore. I am very forthcoming about it, BUT I still gotta go to my FT, in the mean time!

  • Kelly Coyle DiNorcia

    I have had articles published and not told a single soul that I know.  For me, it's partly (okay, mostly) that it's much easier to write for people who don't know me than to have people I know read my writing and know my innermost thoughts.  Admitting I am a writer would mean that people might ask to see my work.

  • Veronica Young

    Hey CJ!


    I've been working on my memoir for about two years now that I'll be publishing into the new year. I've been so fortunate and blessed to have been "removed" from my corporate job, where I'm now able to be at home and focus on my writing fully. I get no respect for this though. By this I mean - the assumption is, I sit around all day and loafe. To them, writing is not a REAL job.


    And it wasn't until my family sat with me for a few days, and watched me go through the process - a thick stack of 220 type written pages, doing redevelopment, edits after edits, WHILE watching, feeding, engaging and chasing after my two year old niece, while making sure the dog is fed and walked, the house is clean and the floor toy-free, did I FINALLY get the respect I deserved! Now, they know that I do more work than them!


    But it might not be a bad idea to NOT say too much to them about your aspirations to write full-time. Friends and family, while not meaning to, can be the most damaging to your goals. Instead, just show them!





  • RYCJ Revising

    You know...this reminds me of quite a while back when someone said I was a (insert derogatory descriptor here), to which I casually questioned a friend about it. Calmly she looked at me, and pointedly asked, "do you see yourself a...?"

    I have to say we are as *WE* see ourselves. That's the first part. The second part I must clip on here... I am a writer, an author, an illustrator, a publisher, a wife, a mother, a daughter... you get my point?