How often do we say those words? And how often do we think about what we’re really saying? We strive to find the right words in our stories and our articles, but how often do we reflect on the words we casually use, and the meaning we may unconsciously reinforce?
Here are a few ways I’ve caught myself saying it.
“I’m a writer?” For much of my life it’s been a question I’ve tried to answer through my efforts. Even now there’s a part of me that wants proof, wants to achieve the same level of success as those I admire as an unbiased evaluation of my skill through financial success.
Doubt rears its head when writing gets hard, when the words won’t come, or those that do seem “all wrong”. And it comes on the heels of exultation. For a moment (however long it lasts) writing flows naturally, and I rest easy on the knowledge that I made real progress, until doubt slips in, whispering that I’m deceiving myself, that I’m blind to how bad my writing really is.
Sadly I don’t think uncertainty can ever be completely resolved, but that itself can be a source of strength. Whenever I find myself beset with doubt, I turn to stories that remind me that I’m not so different from other writers. Sometimes I reread positive feedback others have been kind enough to share with me, and other times I think back to writers I admire (like Neil Gaiman) who make no secret of their own struggles with doubt.
“…and I’m a writer.” Tacked on like Eeyore’s tail, hoping no one would notice. This is how I said it for all of my teens and the first half of my twenties. I felt like it “wasn’t enough” to be a writer, as if I needed to invest more time or achieve some higher proficiency before I could truly and truthfully call myself a writer. Sometimes I used the phrase “aspiring writer” to make it clear that I “knew” I wasn’t one yet. But why?
I was trying to separate myself from those I admire, to recognize that I wasn’t “one of them” yet. And while I still believe that there is always more to learn, there’s also a way in which what separates a financially successful author from a skilled and devoted one is simply how the shifting preferences of the public may favor one story over another, independent of the quality of the writing. I do believe that it takes a lot of skill to earn the interest of an audience of strangers, but it’s important to remember that the writer has to already possess that skill before it can happen. Success doesn’t change a writer; it merely reflects what was already true.
“I’m a writer!” It doesn’t happen often, but once in a while, when words just flow, and the process itself seems to carry me along, I get a little full of myself. I relish in the godlike experience of creating an entire world, and the freedom to craft it any way I see fit. And truthfully, I find no fault with it.
Hubris can be a dangerous thing, but sometimes it’s exactly what’s needed to carry me through to the end of the story. I have met some writers who seemed a little too confident, a little too certain that they already knew everything they needed to know to craft a strong story, but that’s their journey, and if it works for them, good.
Often I end up using this voice to galvanize other young writers who still feel like there’s a pronounced difference between me and them. I tell them “You’re a writer! You just need to let go and ‘let yourself’ be a writer.” And of course they counter with those all too familiar doubts, which only further serve to remind me that in many ways “self-doubt” may be one of the most iconic features of a writer, in my opinion. Granted, I would never push someone to write if they truly didn’t want to, but if someone wishes to write, and doubt holds them back, I will tell them, over and over again, “You are a writer!”
“I’m a writer,” uttered in a calm, matter of fact tone that doesn’t doubt or demand others agree because the truth is in that moment I know that I am, and that’s all that matters.
It’s something I’ve cultivated over a number of years, recognizing that writing is part of who I am, part of my nature. I may sometimes doubt whether I will ever achieve the level of success that I secretly wish for, but I no longer doubt that I will continue to write throughout my life. I will also do other things, but in everything I do, writing and storytelling will be a part of it. Stories are how I see the world, and writing is how I understand it.
How do you say “I’m a writer”?