Friday, November 18, 2011

Authors Anonymous

Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

Hi. My name is Gabi. I’m a writer.

Yes, it sounds exactly like every other 12-step program announcement. At first, I whispered my confession only to strangers who have walked the walk and lived the life. Conferences, master classes and writing retreats were the only places I could say the words out loud because in my family we just don’t do touchy-feely. Our collars are blue – and starched – and there’s no such thing as pursuing passion as a career-choice. Heck, using the “p” word for anything is strictly verboten, a good German word meaning not if you’re calling yourself one of us. So, I stealthed. I worked my seventy hour weeks and toted the proverbial bale of hay while wearing my girl shoes while the artiste inside me yearned to be free, open, visible. . But in secret, I wasn’t just scribbling in notebooks as a hobby. I was building my intellectual ark. I was in Seattle so I knew the showers would come and, lo, it rained.

When I won the first award, in Maui, I had yet to finish a novel. I had made several halting attempts but without tangible proof, well, no one in my family would cotton to my quitting the day job. It’s not that my name wasn’t mentioned with pride. It’s just that the nature of my achievements were glossed over with the general professional recognition tag. All conversations pretty much ended with the it’s just a phase tag. As if, in a week, or a month, I’d suddenly decide I’d rather grow tomatoes, an equally acceptable strictly part-time activity that might raise a little mad money but couldn’t be a focus of my life. I mean they’re vegetables much like my writing was stories.

Things didn’t change even when I got my deal to publish the Animal Instinct mysteries. To be fair, fiction doesn’t pay the big girl salary and few scions of business quake when an author shows up unannounced. Corporate counsel, yeah, she sends the tremors through the building. Who would give up that kind of power for art? No one in their right mind and my family was quick to make sure no one drifted too far from the sane tag. While strangers and neighbors might be regaled with my literary success, and directed to a real bookstore where proof of my renaissance abilities could be read on spines in the local author section, inevitably any familial inquiry into this distraction would be met with reassurances as to my commitment to the day job and its expense account.

My big moment came only recently when I moved from Seattle. Away from my business contacts and workaholic reputation, I, for the first time, committed to being a writer. Openly. Okay, so I was still mumbling under my breath and I recognize there may be a day where the financial security of the same old, same old of corporate work might be necessary to continue to eat on a regular basis. But every day I write. Every day, my mantra, I am a writer, grows a bit bolder, a tiny smudge more assured. I’m not playing at it. It is no longer how I spend the two hours between the end of a work day and the land of nod. It’s what I do. Who I am.

My family is still waiting for this to pass. Like kidney stones, I expect. With pain and possible professional intervention unavoidable. But here’s the thing. I’m out now. There’s no back. There’s only forward. As unimaginable as it is to my relatives, I am doing this. I’ve learned to live with their disbelief. I can even accept their well-meaning but unhelpful “advice” on the foolhardiness of signing up to this life when I have other options, more readily understood alternatives. I’m out and proud.

Hi. My name is Gabi. I’ve taken the first step – admission. I am a writer.

Thanks for reading.



Michael Wiley said...

I have the sense that the writing thing is bigger than kidney stones, Gabi. And I'm glad: I wouldn't want it to pass -- I'm looking forward to your next books.

Joshua Corin said...

You and I have different definitions for P-word... =)

Meredith Cole said...

Glad it isn't just a phase, Gabi! I'm sure your family is proud (and they probably do brag about you all the time -- behind your back).

Gabi said...

It does feel a little like kidney stones, sometimes, doesn't it? I'm glad we're in this disease together, Michael.

Gabi said...

Okay, Josh, share...

Gabi said...

I hope so, Meredith. I always get the feeling the good stuff is spoken after I've left the room.