I’ve always been a writer, but it’s only been within the last few years that I’ve actually called myself a writer.
Growing up, I wrote small stories here and there. I didn’t think that made me a writer.
I received perfect scores on English papers and the written sections of standardized tests. I didn’t believe that made me a “writer.”
I self-published a book on Amazon. Even when people bought the book – some were even strangers – I still did not feel like a bona fide writer.
I was accepted into an MFA Creative Writing program. That didn’t confirm my “writer” identity.
I had two short stories published. Even then, I did not feel like a writer.
Following graduation, I began working with an online magazine as a freelancer on top of my full-time job. After being published on the online magazine multiple times and having a few articles picked up by Huffington Post, I still did not feel like a writer.
Yeah, I’m insane.
However, don’t we often feel this way? Following graduation, we may have passed the bar exam or passed our accounting exam, but when do we feel like a lawyer, accountant, or whatever our respective profession is? Only when we choose to.
It wasn’t until I decided to become a full-time freelance writer that I had to end my years of denial and accept the fact – I was a writer. More than that, I had to own that identity. I had to say it confidently, or no one would take me serious and I would not get jobs.
So I made it a mission to become the identity that I had for so long not felt worthy of identifying myself as.
I printed out business cards; I updated my LinkedIn and the job section on my social media accounts. When people asked me what I did, I said writer. At first it felt odd on my tongue. Writer, writer, writer. Could I ever get used to saying, “I am a writer”?
It got easier. Mostly because I discovered that by stepping into my writer identity, people took me seriously. Even though I didn’t fully believe that I was a writer, others did. They asked me for advice or asked me to edit their stuff. They shared their infatuation with writing, their favorite books, the journal they kept, the blog they wanted to start, the memoir they were working on. To them, I was an expert. And with their praise and interest, I felt less like a novice and more like the writer they saw me as.
Suddenly, my family was telling others that I was a writer. My friends were calling me a writer. I began to get referrals for writing jobs and new clients. When I finally made the full transition to a full-time freelancer, it went quite smoothly. I got three major clients in a few months and the fourth soon after.
Recently, a friend from college sent me a student’s paper that she’d edited in the tutor lab. The student had cited one of my articles.
I couldn’t deny it – I am a writer. (I mean, how freaking awesome is that!?)
Looking back now, I see how ridiculous it was that I wouldn’t call myself a writer. I also wonder if I missed out on multiple opportunities because I didn’t believe in myself or my identity.
So my advice: name yourself. Be who you want to be. If you want to be an artist, call yourself an artist. If you’ve only taken photos of your friends’ kids but you want to get more involved in photography, call yourself a photographer. Only when you believe in yourself and accept those names, those identities, those professions, those lifestyles, will you truly be what you wish to be.
It may feel weird at first calling yourself a “writer,” a “marketing specialist,” or an “editor,” but you will only find success when you do.
On a side note, I’m taking on a new identity. Alex, “The Novelist” has a nice ring to it and hopefully brings me the literary agent and book deal that I’ve been seeking here in 2016.
Photo by Unsplash via Pixabay