On Calling Yourself A Writer

Imposture Syndrome is real. It is not uncommon for writers to struggle with labelling themselves a writer. It feels like a foreign term reserved only for best-selling novelists. Writers are often sensitive people and can become crippled by self-doubt. Standing up and saying “I am a writer” feels like an act of defiance, but it must be done frequently and with great confidence.

I have certainly struggled with it myself. I have dismissed my writing as a hobby, something I do for myself and not for others. I have minimized the important role it has played in my life. That ended a few months ago when I started writing my fourth novel. The first three remain unpublished. The truth is that I have never even submitted them. I have been too fearful of criticism or outright rejection. That ends now. I am a writer. I write. I am a writer.

Becoming a writer does not mean that you write every day, although that certainly helps. It does not mean that you abandon your day job to write full-time. As Sara Benincasa has written, “Real Artists Have Day Jobs.” It simply means that in your moments of solitude you put pen to paper, or pound away at a keyboard, uncovering new worlds and elucidating your own thoughts through words.

The courage lies in calling yourself a writer to friends, family, and strangers. In being brave enough to say the four simple words: I am a writer. I write. I am a writer.

Publication and praise will come later if you work hard enough. If you bleed onto the page then people will respond to that. But this is ultimately not as important as the writing itself and the conviction in your own mind that you, yes you, are a writer.

Practice by saying it in the mirror. Lock eyes with yourself and repeat. “I am a writer. I write. I am a writer,” until you believe it with every fibre of your being. Soon it will become real to you. So real, in fact, that you will be able to say it to that inquisitive person at the party who asks you what you do. “I am a writer. I write. I am a writer.”

“Coming out” to your friends and family as a writer will be more difficult to do so I encourage you to practice on strangers until you build up the strength to say it with confidence. Though they will be supportive, your friends and family may unconsciously diminish your writing as a hobby, as you once did. Stand tall and do not let the doubt crowd into your mind. You are a writer. You write. You are a writer.

Write as much as you can as often as you can. Be kind to yourself as you write and review your first drafts. No first draft comes easily or beautifully. First drafts are ugly, gnarled things like the rough earth from which vibrant things grow. Polish them. Tend to them like you would your garden and they will flourish.

All the time, repeat to yourself “I am a writer. I write. I am a writer.”

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