I’ve been watching back episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race of late. During the judging segments, a high complement of a queen’s performance or look is her “realness.” This might seem strange praise for ersatz women lip syncing, but I think it’s referring to the level of work, talent, power, and emotion they put into their presentation.
I could learn a lot from drag queens.
Calling myself a writer has been a long process. I didn’t do it for years. I only wrote occasionally or in bursts, and I thought that wasn’t enough to claim being a writer. Whenever I was asked what I did, I would always reply with whatever I was doing for a day job. Eventually, writing was part of my day job. After a few years of it, I started putting down “writer/editor” on official forms. I felt it was okay to do this because I was getting paid to write.
Finishing my first novel did not prompt me to call myself a novelist or even a writer of fiction. There were too many things that didn’t make it official. The novel wasn’t published. I didn’t have an agent. No one besides close family and friends had read it. Besides, most people advised putting a first novel under the mattress and never letting it see the light of day. It was just practice on the way to becoming a novelist. No one is really serious about all this book writing stuff until after the sophomore effort anyway.
Now the first draft of the second novel is done and I’ve already started kicking the can further down the street. I’m not a novelist until I’ve finished the second draft, sent out more queries to agents, and gotten favorable responses. I’m not really a qualified writer until I’ve taken a fiction writing course. Or published a few short stories. Or won a writing contest. Or gotten paid for some form of creative writing.
At this rate, I’ll never get to real.
I could try something different. I could try to judge my realness by the time and work I put into it. By the power and emotion I convey through my words. By whether or not I bring all of my skills to the table and don’t hold anything back. I could hold myself to the same standards as RuPaul holds her girls.