By Janine Sobeck
I have built a career around the creation and telling of stories, but never felt like a writer.
My story? I’m a dramaturg. If you don’t know, that means I help playwrights develop their ideas, characters, and plotlines.
For many years, as I worked with my clients, I would feel a touch of envy and think:
“I wish I were a writer.”
Though I often received praise for my articles, interviews, blurbs and reviews, I shrugged off the notion that I was a legitimate writer.
After all, I didn’t create new worlds in my mind. I didn’t have characters speaking to me, fighting to get out of my brain and onto the page. I simply pulled together real facts and real stories in order to create something interesting.
Building a Side Job
Then, a few years ago, finances were a little tight. To get by, I took a freelance job as a content writer for an SEO company. I figured my dramaturgical experience – in particular, the skill of researching a particular topic and funneling my findings into an informative and engaging article – would translate well into that particular field.
Month after month, I wrote blog posts about every subject under the sun. I quickly realized I had a knack for creating pieces that people enjoyed reading.
So I started to expand my reach. I pitched a series of feature articles for a local theater website. I sold travel stories about my many trips abroad. I submitted articles for publication in books. I created a website to explore some of my deepest questions.
But I still didn’t call myself a writer. Somehow, somewhere, I had created this block that the only “real” writers were the ones who created works of fiction. I wasn’t writing the next great American novel (or play), so I didn’t feel worthy of the title.
Recognizing the Truth
Then, recently, I was talking to a new acquaintance about all of my many projects. Not too long into the conversation he asked:
“So, are you a writer?”
I started to say no. Before the word could escape my lips, though, I thought about why he came to that conclusion. All my projects past and present. And what tied them all together. That’s when I realized the truth.
“Yes, I am a writer. I’m a nonfiction writer.”
That simple statement altered my reality and my self-perception. No, I wasn’t going to start writing a novel (or a play). No, characters were not going to start telling me their stories. Yet, I’m still a writer. I love using words to craft narratives and convey information. I simply prefer to use true stories instead of fiction.
I still work as a dramaturge, helping people create their imagined worlds. However, I also now find a new sense of value in my nonfiction writing. A value that allows me to proudly say, “Yes, I am a writer.”
When did you finally feel like a writer? Tell us in the comments below.
Janine Sobeck is a freelance writer and dramaturge. She believes in the power of questions, theatre, travel and chocolate.