Like many writers, I aspired to earn the title from a very young age. I felt called to writing in a way I did not feel called to other pursuits — a vocation, not just a “career.” For years, that calling scared me spitless. I was worried that if I didn’t get it right on the first try, that meant I wasn’t actually a writer, that this wasn’t what I was supposed to do.
So what did I do with that fear? Nothing. As in, I didn’t write. Yes, there have been a number of half-hearted attempts over the last decade and a half to start and maintain a blog, I wrote some mediocre poetry, and I got the first 15k words or so done on a novel, but I still was’t a writer — not by my own standards.
Then about this time last year, I had a revolutionary conversation with a couple friends that resulted in a paradigm shift (thanks, Jen and Erica!). I realized the only way I could be a writer was to, well, write. Yes, that’s so obvious it’s painful, but I had been waiting for the “right time” for literally years. I had this picture in my head of what it should look like to be a writer: dedicated space for writing, hours and hours every day set aside for writing, and the perfect book on the first try because I’m just such a natural *genius.*
What that conversation showed me was that there was never going to be a perfect time. I had to write anyway, write in spite of the obstacles and fear. Maybe even because of them. At the end of the day, I could aspire all over the place, but unless I put my butt in the chair and did the thing with the typing and the words and the backspacing, I would never know if I could be what I thought I was supposed to be. In other words, the only thing actually standing in my way was me.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot more about what it takes to be a writer. I finally finished that novel that was stuck at 15k words. I’ve begun figuring out what it takes to be in this field as a career (it’s scary and hard, which I always suspected, I’m just not letting that stop me anymore). I’m starting to find a community of like-minded people (ie, scared, insecure writers who aren’t sure they deserve that title, actually). It’s been a wild year, but I’ve (genuinely) not been happier in my adult life.
Ultimately, the biggest epiphany I’ve had is realizing that the process of writing has to be the whole point: crafting and shaping a piece, learning who I am and what I think. If the goal is something external (finding an agent, selling a book, getting a prestigious award), I’ll always feel that I fall short, because the bar keeps getting higher. Before I had my draft done, I thought I needed to finish it to feel like a “real writer.” When it was done, though, I didn’t magically feel complete and valid. Instead, I thought, “Actually, I won’t be a real writer until I have an agent. Or sell a book. Or make it to the New York Times Bestseller list.” Not helpful; not true.
So, now I write. I am a writer.
This post is part of the monthly blog-hop hosted by the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. On the first Wednesday of every month, members are encouraged to write a post about their writing life and struggles, and visit other blogs in the hop to network and encourage one other. If you are interested in visiting the other blogs or joining yourself, visit the website here.
Every month, the hosts of the blog hop ask a question, which participants are welcome to answer in their post or ignore completely. This month, the question is “what’s harder to do, coming up with your book title or writing the blurb?”
For me, although both of those are difficult, I’d have to go with the blurb. The real, horrible, hairy, awful job is writing the synopsis, though. Condense my 95k word novel into 500 words? In a compelling way? That has some form of craft and personality? A herculean feat of writing if ever there was one. I’d rather eat a bowl of dirt.