“It’s better to feel pain/than nothing at all/the opposite of love is indifference.”

While at the coffee shop waiting for my dark roast, I noticed a guy juggling a billion notebooks ordering a drink. The barista asked him about the notebooks and he told her he was writing a book about China’s nuclear ambitions.

After he finished speaking to the barista, I introduced myself. (I’ve met a couple of my best writer friends in coffee shops.) I’m a writer, too, I said.

Oh. He looked shifty, like I’d caught him stealing. I’m not a real writer, he said. I mean, I’m not published or anything.

He stared at his feet and it was so awkward that I just wished him luck and excused myself. I wish I’d said something more, though. I wish I’d asked him why, if we write, do we not consider ourselves writers? Why, to the outside world, are we indifferent to our dream?

I was like this for years—apologizing for the fact that I wrote for a living, instead of having a “real” job. We pour our whole hearts into something and then make sure everyone knows that they shouldn’t actually take us seriously. Because if we reveal that we are NOT indifferent, that we love our dream and hope like children that it comes true, we open ourselves to ridicule and judgment and pain.

There are other reasons, too. Maybe we don’t want to be seen as dreamers. Maybe our families don’t support us. Maybe we just don’t believe in ourselves.

It’s all bullshit. If we write, then we are writers. We might be other things at the same time—parents, caregivers, teachers, lawyers, food inspectors. But we are still writers. We should own the title.

Make it yours. Proclaim it to anyone who asks. Don’t be indifferent to your dream.

And at some point, if someone asks if you’ve been published, don’t be apologetic if the answer is no. Be proud. Because to pursue a dream purely based on faith in yourself is brave as hell, and you should give yourself credit for having the cajones to do it.

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