I am a writer.
I know this because it is written in green dry erase marker on my mirror in two languages. It is a constant reminder of who I am and who I want to be. I need the reminder because no matter how many poems, short stories, blog posts, web sites, letters, social media snippets, marketing collateral, or emails I write, I still don’t think of myself as a writer.
I keep waiting for the moment when something will click in my brain that acknowledges my writer status.
Is it when someone says I am a good writer? Check.
Is it when someone tells me I should write? Check.
Is it when something I’ve written is published by someone other than me? Check.
Is it when people come to me for writing advice? Check.
Is it when I get paid for writing? Check.
What is the standard or the level my brain needs before it is satisfied that I am a writer?
I recently went to a Breakfast and Learn about using social media as a solopreneur. I was surrounded by people who owned their creativeness, artists, writers, designers. They proudly shook my hand and said, “Hi, I’m an artist.” I went in with the thought I would do the same. I would also proudly declare I am a writer.
Perhaps, because it was a networking event along with learning, which immediately makes me uncomfortable, but I faltered when people asked me what I do. The first time or two, I said I was a writer, but also listed my day job, until finally, I was just my day job again.
Maybe when I can fully pay my bills with my pen (or computer screen, but that sounds much less poetic), then I will fully believe I am a writer. Until then, here are a few thoughts that help me when I start doubting my writer status.
I write; therefore, I am a writer.
Every motivational writer website has this saying or some variation, so it must be true, right? It is. I truly believe this is true for others, so I should apply the same standards to myself. I write. I am a writer. The frequency of my writing fluctuates, but when I am going through a time where I am not writing, I am thinking about writing. Allow me to paraphrase Deloris from Sister Act 2. If you go to sleep every night thinking about writing and then wake up every morning thinking about writing, you’re a writer.
They probably feel like an imposter, too.
Maybe not all the time and maybe not now, but I am sure they felt that way at some point and maybe will again. It is like high school. I often say I wish I understood when I was in high school that everyone was a nerd in their own way and that we were all dealing with pressures of some sort. It would have made those four years of my life so much better. The same applies here. We all have insecurities and we’ve all felt like an imposter, so we are not alone.
I cannot remember a time in my life when I wanted to be anything other than a writer. I love words. While it is perfectly acceptable to write for yourself, my goal is to put my words out there and allow them to have a life beyond my brain. I want to live by my pen. In order to make that happen, I must keep writing and sharing my words. Just by that act alone, I am a writer.
Imposter syndrome does not just inflict writers and other artists, but artists tend to be particularly susceptible to it because we are often told we cannot make a living doing what we love. If we are encouraged to pursue our passion, we are also told to find a “fall back” career, which causes many artists to study for a career they do not want. Then, worse, we stay in the fall back to earn money until we can live off our craft and the craft suffers because we don’t have time to devote to it. We begin to doubt our talent and our commitment to being an artist and imposter syndrome settles in. Once it settles, it is hard to shake.