Being a writer is weird. I write for my college’s newspaper, which is a pretty well read publication among the professors and other professionals at my school. Not so much among the students.
So it’s not like I’m well known at all. People who write for the paper know other people who write for the paper and we all read and support each other’s stuff and that’s about all we need.
But then there are the professors. If they have you in class, they will read everything that gets published. Some will even bring it up in class. In front of everyone else. Which honestly, for most writers, is some type of nightmare.
I guess you get used to it, though. I have. There are a few professors who will always talk to me about my articles, so I expect that. For some reason I’m still shook every time someone new brings up something I’ve written. The best way I can describe it is that it’s like trying to hang out with your high school friends and your college friends at the same time. Just like you had a slightly (maybe very) different persona in high school than you did in college, any writer will tell you they have a very different persona in their writing than they do in person.
That’s why I always get a little worried when one of the first things a new professor says to me is “you write for the paper, don’t you?” I always feel kind of like a poser, then. Like now they’re going to expect to get my writer persona. That’s definitely not the persona they’re going to get though.
I write for opinion, usually attacking some social injustice or another, so my articles can get kind of heated and argumentative. I’m nothing like that in person, though. I’m sorry, new professor, but if you’re expecting me to contribute the hot points in class discussions, it’s not gonna happen.
See, I’m very quiet in person. I’ve spent my whole life trying to overcome my natural inclination towards shyness. That’s why I write. Because I still feel that human need to express myself, I just also feel the need to do so through a channel that you can edit first.
It is easy to misspeak. It’s a lot harder to miswrite. And when most of your articles deal with topics like race, mental illness, and sexual identity, not miswriting is pretty important. Because, while I want to publish articles that make people think, I prefer not to publish articles that make people offended.
That’s what I’m like in person too, though. I never want to hurt somebody’s feelings, and will just keep quiet if that’s what I feel I have to do to avoid it. So see, my two personas aren’t so very different. But their similarity leads to a vast difference in how I express myself.
So, new professor, I will write you some of the best essays and papers you will ever read, but please don’t expect me to be the leader in class discussions. As for all you other writers out there who feel like you’re living a double life, I’m right there with you. But, do you know who else lives a double life? Superheroes. So I guess writing is kind of like a superpower then. It does take a certain finesse to string words into sentences that are efficient, informative, and will grab people’s attention. So hold your quiet head high, and own how you express yourself. You might be a little weird, but you’re a writer.