“Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.” -Karl Augustus Menninger
For a long time, I didn’t consider myself a “real writer.” I always made myself believe that I was just a wannabe.
To be the “real deal” you had to publish your work in many journals or magazines, have at least one book, be well-known in some sort of fashion, and/or have some kind of fancy academic credential and be actively engaged in a writing or artistic community.
Not quite, I’ve realized.
When people have asked me what I hope to do with my life, I have said, “I want to be a writer.” After being reminded of my goal, I would devise some kind of crazy writing schedule that I could never keep up with and then I would end up not writing, dreaming about writing instead.
I feared writing, in reality. I was afraid of putting words onto paper because of what others might think of them, what I might think of them if they didn’t live up to my silly, perfectionistic standards. The critics were alive and well in my head, and they were suffocating the creativity out of me, quip by quip.
It wasn’t until very recently that I realized that I am a writer. A real writer, despite what these critics have told me for years.
I have published, but not extensively. I’ve edited a book, but not yet written my own. I’m well-known among my friends, family, and colleagues, and now my Instagram travel community, but that’s the extent of my “fame” at the moment.
However, for me right now, all of this is enough. And it’s this, and more, that makes me a writer.
What I’ve learned is that I don’t need outside validation to “be a writer” (or to be anything else, for that matter). I can simply be one–even if that means journaling in one of my notebooks or thinking up some fun children’s book idea in my head and jotting it down. A book is a book is a book but not having one yet doesn’t mean I’m not a writer.
As I’ve learned, being a writer is more than a book, a publication credit, or an advanced degree. It’s a mode of operating, which includes the act of writing itself. It’s also a way of observing the world around you, seeing stories come alive in front of your eyes. It’s a way of tuning in to life, rather than turning away.
Being a writer is the act of embracing a creative force–one that requires observation, research, reading, and writing, itself. It also requires some time prioritization (so that you can actually write your great thoughts and ideas down!) and a firm F YOU to anything inside and outside of you (i.e. the critics) that tells you otherwise.
As a good friend recently blogged, you’re the expert of your own life. So, for me, if I want to embrace my inner writer, then I need to write my own story, whether that is though fiction, poetry, nonfiction, or blog posts.
What I’ve also discovered through this learning process is that in order to write my own story, I need to push through a mountain of ugly fear and allow myself to be vulnerable in front of others. Sure, I might get some push-back, but I’ll also be living an authentic life.
By allowing myself to really be myself, I’ve found boundless opportunities to express my creativity and write and engage with the world around me like never before. And it’s just the beginning.
With hopefully many years ahead of me, I look forward to living the creative life I once denied myself. And all it took was filtering out inner and outer criticism, fear, self-loathing, and turning instead toward my real values and joys.
Not an easy feat by any means. And the fight is never over, but it does get easier over time.
To creativity and beyond,
Feature photo credit: A Visit in Germany / KP