Words Mean Things, With Examples

I think a lot about words and what they mean. 

The persistent ice of early May, 2023.

I also think a lot about how writers are not their work. And recently, in my very own life, I've used words that confuse a writer with their work. 

A couple of weeks back, I had the chance to bond with a bookseller over the writing of a famous author.

“Oh, I hate Famous Author!” I said. Far too loudly, in fact. And I felt yucky.

Understand this: I do not know Famous Author. I actually don’t hate Famous Author. They’re possibly a perfectly nice person. You know, maybe.

Of course I imagine that the elements of their work I don’t like are proof positive that Famous Author is a showboat, and I so I have actual reasons why I don't like them, and why I don't think we'd be friends. 

Maybe, maybe not. Many Famous Authors (and Famous Others) are horrible people.* Maybe this one is too. But maybe not. 

And let's be clear, Famous Author gives zero hoots about my opinion or potential as a bestie, and is in fact completely unaware that I exist.

So to be more accurate—because words mean things—I could have said, “I’m not a big fan of Famous Author’s work.” Or “Famous Author’s work isn’t for me.” Those would have been accurate and fair statements.

Because: Writers are not their work!

I have brought up this thing about words =/= writers repeatedly in person. I no doubt have written about it before. But I will step onto my soapbox once again (because what's the good of having one if you never get up there and yell into the voice?).

WRITERS are not their WORK.

Smiling at me, even when my work is rejected.

I am not my work, and by “work” I mean my writing. Those few (many) thousands of words on those pieces of paper. Or bits ‘n’ bytes.

Yes, my work is personal, especially my essay collection, but also my forthcoming novel. Everyone’s writing is personal. It has to be; you can’t help it. That’s OK! Your writing should express something important to you.

And when my work is rejected for publication or doesn’t place in a contest, it stings. But: that’s MY WORK. Not ME.


My WORK was rejected.

Technically, it's just THIS DRAFT of my work that was rejected--a future draft might find publication and a huge fan base somewhere. OR! This same draft might find friends and publication elsewhere. 

Regardless, I’m okay. I have nothing to be ashamed of--I wrote a thing, I thought I'd see if someone liked it enough to publish it, they didn't, that's information. I can revise it or submit somewhere else. Choices I can make. 

I have to keep saying this because I get to practice I AM NOT MY WORK on the daily. 

Receiving rejections (as I did just yesterday, for new work that is powerfully close to home and for which I had high hopes) is a thing that happens. 

It is a thing that means I'm alive and creating, yay! And I'm participating, or attempting to, in the world's creative discourse.

And if your work didn't place in a contest recently, or if your work is returning to your inbox, you are okay. You're creating. You're participating in the world's creative discourse. That's a cause for celebration. Yay!


* There are Famous Authors and Famous Others who say terrible, hate-able things and deny humanity to vast swaths of people. In those cases, whether I hate THE PERSON is something I have to wrestle with, but I definitely hate everything about them, and I try to be sure I am not supporting them. You know what? There are so many creative people in the world and so much beautiful work that I can skip theirs. The writer I was talking about in the bookstore isn't of that ilk, AND I can also skip their work.