by Russell Dyer
published: july 21, 2018; revised: july 21, 2018; readers in past month: 0
About fifteen years ago, while living in New Orleans, I lost my job and separated from my then wife and moved into a small apartment. I had very little: no money saved, a small income from the government, and a few pieces of furniture. The economy was weak at that time and there were no jobs related to computers or anything else that I was qualified to do. To improve my résumé and to make some money over the meager, short term stipend provided by the state, I began writing articles for computer magazines.
A year passed slowly without a full-time job. I found temporary work at night at a U.S. Naval base installing software on computers. In time, I was hired to teach one course at ITT Technical Institute. But none of that was enough. So I kept writing articles on software: tutorials, reviews, etc. I enjoyed writing, albeit technical writing. I would have preferred to have been working as a novelist, but I needed money and there was no money in writing fiction for me.
One day I was alone having lunch at a restaurant where I often ate. I sat at a table near the bar so that the bartender, Shannon Lamb could serve me. She and I were friends and chatting with her when she was free made up for eating alone. At the next table were two women who overheard me saying something to Shannon. One of them spoke with me for a few minutes. She asked me what I did, what was my job. I said unexpectedly, “I’m a writer.” I saw Shannon smile at that from the bar. I don’t know whether she thought I was being silly or cool—or just trying to impress the woman. Whatever she thought, I liked the sound of it. I had never said or thought of myself as a writer. Shortly after that, I had a business card printed with my name and the title of Writer.
It may not seem like much, but saying that I’m a writer and seeing my name with the title Writer under it on a business card changed something in me. I began to see myself as a writer, to think of myself as a writer: I became a writer. From there, everything changed. All of my energy and effort was dedicated to being a writer. I struggled for three years, trying to establish myself. I wrote articles that were published every month in computer software magazines. I interviewed famous people in the industry for articles, reviewed new products, traveled to conferences, and got a book contract for my first technical manual. I was living the life of a writer. Eventually, I got a job working for MySQL Ab, the company for the software I wrote about the most. I wrote and edited articles for their web site.
After fifteen years of writing technical articles and books, of editing the technical writing of others, I’ve made very little progress at becoming a novelist. I wanted to be a writer and I am one. But more specifically, I would like to be a novelist. I’ve written and self-published a few novels. Very few people, though, have read my novels. It’s very disappointing. You can see in the photograph here pictures of my novels. I will explain each item in this photo in another post.
It’s time for me to change my identity, my self of self. It’s been changing towards a novelist: I’ve been doing plenty related to writing and publishing novels. Maybe I need a new business card with the title, Novelist. That seems pretentious, though. I changed my background photo on Facebook to this photo. I’m not sure what I need to do, but I need to declare myself as a novelist so that it has the same impact that saying I was a writer and printing a business card as such had fifteen years ago. My identity is changing. I just need to facilitate it and declare it somehow.