Monday, May 31, 2010

"Damn it, Jim. I'm a writer, not a doctor!"

Okay. So the original Leonard McCoy never said "Damn it" (cussing was frowned upon). The line did make it into the latest Star Trek movie. Fellow fans will notice my word switch. I'm a writer.

Most romance writers have day jobs or careers. I won't presume to know all the reasons why, but I've come across 'love of their career' or 'primary income source' the most. Being a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) is also a career in my book. The question is, at what point do we identify ourselves primarily as writers? When does the question "What do you do?" or the "Occupation" box on forms get the answer writer? At what point do we feel confident enough to brave the stigma of being a romance writer? If you simply say 'writer', the question about what you write inevitably comes next...followed by the eye roll and smirk.

I'm an eye doctor. Yep. An optometrist to be exact (Sinara is my pen name). I use the present tense because I still hold and maintain an active license. However, I haven't seen patients in a couple of years. I've been busy raising three boys and writing. I've always been an avid reader and writer. As a child, I kept a journal and wrote poetry. I had pictures taken of me sleeping with a book on my face. Unfortunately, I was raised in a family where 'the arts' weren't career material. They were something you did as a hobby. Right.

I'm a writer. I say it now with confidence and pride. For the longest time, I struggled with putting my career as a doctor behind me. I felt guilty for the years and tuition invested in that career. I felt guilty about stepping away from a profession I was successful and good at. It took tons of introspection before I came to the conclusion that education and experience is NEVER a waste. It becomes an integral part of who we are and it, no doubt, influences how or what we write. Observation and experience make up a writer's data files. They fuel our creativity and give us insight into our characters. What's important is finding your true passion and embracing it. I think it was Oprah that once said that the most successful people are those that love what they're doing. Could you imagine Bill Gates hating computers? I love writing romance and, although I'm still unpublished, it's my career. Income or money isn't mentioned in my Webster's definition of career.

With the current number of centarians increasing at a rate of 7% a year (wikipedia) and the average human lifespan ever increasing, having more than one career in a lifetime isn't that ludicrous. If there's some rule about having one career in a lifetime, I've broken it and I'm glad I did. Careers are like dating. Sometimes you have to try a few before you find the right one.

Do you currently have more than one profession and, if you do, which one do you identify yourself as? What did it take for you to come out of the closet as a writer and what internal or external forces were you  up against?

Happy Memorial Day! My thoughts and prayers are with all our veterans and soldiers.


  1. Yes, you're a writer! I still haven't completely figured out my response when someone asks what I'm up to or what I do. It depends somewhat on who's doing the asking, but since I've had my first book accepted for publication, I've become bolder. I have more confidence as if what I've been doing is validated. By a professional! I also had a very successful and lucrative career in the IT and business services industry. For the longest time I still identified myself with that. Not any longer. At least not completely, because as you say it's now part of me and who I am. An ex-partner of mine called this morning to see if I was interested in being involved in one of his initiatives. It would be a challenging and rewarding opportunity. My initial reaction? Nooooooooo! It was screaming inside my head because I just wanted to get back to my WIP. I'm going to hear him out, but I just know my heart wouldn't be in it. Not completely. I'm a writer, too!

  2. You're right, Kaily. Validation is so important and getting a contract really helps. I'm sure there are some who don't need reassurance, but I wanted make sure that I wouldn't be that person who gets up on the American Idol stage and starts squeaking. As you know, early on I used Harlequin's Critique Service (no longer available) for just that. I wanted a professional opinion on my writing. I swore that if they told me I had a strong voice, I wouldn't quit. They said it and it gave me a huge confidence boost. Having had a full and partial requested helped too.

    However, like you, I'm still drawn by my past, but I know I wouldn't be happy going back. I wouldn't feel complete, as I do with writing. The trouble with being left and right brained is that you get pulled in both directions. I still love science and health, but there was something missing. I think I lean a little more to the right, and I needed a career with more creativity.

    And yes, you are a writer too and I can't wait for your release date!

  3. Rula, I love your post. I had a hard time coming out of the closet as a writer as well. It's tough to make a career change, especially when you used to have a "good" (ie money-making) career and you take that leap of faith to follow your dreams. Tough but so worth it!


  4. Hi Rula,

    I'm a technical writer at my day job, but when I put "writer" down as my occupation, I mean novels. I don't choose that consistently, though, especially for anything to do with my health insurance which is funded by the day job. ;-)

    I didn't realize you were an eye doctor. I'm thrilled to be part of a generation of women who have more choices in our career flexibility than previous generations did. I'm currently in my 5th year at my job--that's the longest I've worked anywhere, and I've been employed steadily since I was ten years old. (That first job was a paper route.)

    The best job I've had in all that time is definitely writing novels. No question about it, that's the career I really love!


  5. Hi Amy and Ellen!

    It's great to see you both over here. You made my morning :)

    Amy, you're right. It's an enormous leap of faith, but I guess nothing great comes without a little risk. Right? It has already been worth it for me, and I'm not even published yet!

    Ellen, your friends are forever grateful for your technical skills ;). Benefits like health insurance are very important reasons to having a career other than writing. I was really lucky that my husband's career took off and we've been able to live on his income and benefits. As for your love of writing, it shows in your books!

  6. I'm a SAHM and haven't had the confidence to say I'm a writer yet. LOL
    But I still have my pharmacist license, too.

  7. Hi Jennifer,

    It's so nice to know that I'm not alone in my little 'identity crisis' LOL. It wasn't until I attended RWA nationals in D.C. last year, that I realized soooo many fellow writers/authors have or have had multiple careers. We're talking librarians, lawyers, IT, etc... I remember making business cards for the event and feeling like an imposter. I ended up just saying 'Contemporary Romance' and leaving out 'writer' all together, even though I had completed a manuscript. However, coming out of the meeting, I felt like I'd been officially initiated as a writer. I'd met so many published and unpublished writers who were so like me and so friendly. I was truly impressed.

    I hope anyone going to nationals for the first time reads this. YOU'RE A WRITER! Go with confidence!

    And Jennifer, you ARE a writer too! Trust me, get rid of that little bit of doubt and you'll experience a whole new level of a writer's rush ;)

  8. Great blog Rula, just read through all of your posts. Its fun learning more about the people we meet online. I'm not a writer, but a reader! Well... I do write environmental plans and documents, but not stories :) I really like the way you've written your posts and am looking forward to reading your published books!

  9. Thanks so much, Snookie. That means a lot to me. Your job sounds very cool, and yes, there are many types of writers. We're all still writers, whether in fiction or non-fiction. I was published in a clinical journal long before I started writing romance. They're definitely a different game!