In tenth grade, my English teacher asked us to write a short story. By asked, I mean assigned homework. My general memories of high school all have a bit of a fuzz about them – my memory is not super. But I remember thinking this was the easiest homework ever. I sat down and typed out (on an electric typewriter, you whippersnappers) my story in an evening. I gave it to my mom to edit.

My mom was a writer – or ex-writer. She had written prolifically in her younger days, and was quite talented. She had even gone to a pretty impressive graduate program. But as time and her mental illness had progressed, she had stopped writing.

I remember her eyes being a bit glassy after she finished reading my story. I thought it was boredom, but she assured me it was tears. She had been quite moved by what I had written, and aside from some grammar corrections – my mom really should have been an editor – she thought it was perfect.

I turned the story in and waited. I received the story back with a 100% and several stars drawn on the top. My teacher then made the entire class read my story, which was equal parts awesome and humiliating. I was later called down to the principal’s office, an event that only happened two times in my school career. (The other time was for a crime I did in fact commit, but that’s another story.) The principal wanted to praise my story as well. In his scary office. To my nervous and, I’m certain, bright-red face.

I went to college thinking that although I loved writing, I couldn’t make a living at it. I’m not sure why – my parents had never said this to me, I don’t think. I majored in something I thought would be more employable, and took some writing classes when my schedule allowed.

I don’t remember writing much for fun after I went to college. I would sporadically decide to start journaling, or open a blank document on my computer and type out an outline for a story I’d never finish. I wrote some obligatory angsty poetry. Something had happened in my head that just said over and over again this isn’t something you can do, or something you should spend time on, or something (fill in the self-defeating thought here).

I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that my time spent writing in the last couple of years has increased. I found a wonderful therapist. I think everyone should have a therapist they love. If I were ever going to run for President, that might be my entire platform. But I’ve now got some fantastic tools to use to fight back when those mean thoughts pop up and try to get me to quit writing.

I recently had the chance to see my first published short story in print. I got pretty emotional holding the book, but more than that, I got itchy, right in the tips of my fingers. I wanted to go write.

I’ve read a lot on the internet about “when do I become a real writer?” Can I say I’m a writer when I get an agent? Or when I get published? Or when I get a certain number of rejection letters?

I have no idea when other people may think I’m a writer, but I finally believe I’m a writer.