When someone comes up to me and tells me they’ve been struggling with setting up daily writing habits, committing to a writing practice, or even time management (fitting writing into a busy lifestyle), one of the first questions I will ask:
Have you identified yourself as a writer?
Identity is one of the key foundational elements to a writing journey. There is very little success or forward progress for anyone who doesn’t believe that they are a writer. And yet, it’s one of the most common areas that writers forget to nurture.
About eight years ago, my husband, two children, and I were in a taxi. The cabbie asked my husband what he did for a living. They shared a small exchange before the cabbie looked at me in the rear-view mirror and asked me what I do for a living.
I said, “I take care of these two sugar cubes,” referring to my two children sitting on either side of me.
My son Riley looked up at me and said, “And you’re a writer.”
I remember chuckling, feeling embarrassed. Mumbled something that resembled a lame agreement and prayed that the cabbie wouldn’t ask me some of those dreaded questions:
-What kind of writing do you do?
-Are you published?
-What is your book about?
For the rest of the day I dwelled on my reaction. This wasn’t the first time I didn’t mention writing when someone asked me about my job. I’d say I’m a mom, or that I’m a story coach, or that I teach creative writing to children in after-school programs.
Two ingredients to being a writer
Why the heck did I suffer such angst over calling myself a writer? I finally journaled through it because my self-degradation sat on me like a ton of bricks.
Over time, it occurred to me that my son’s assessment of a writer had everything to do with the fact I SHOWED UP every day to my computer. I didn’t have to be published or be a keynote speaker at a writing conference. I didn’t have to be choosing book cover designs or having conversations with an agent or editor.
Once I pivoted to my son’s way of thinking, magic flared. Truly. There was less guilt and drama over the fact I might choose to write instead of go to the beach with friends. I started writing for longer periods of time and writing more frequently.
Granted, I was still disorganized and struggling with elements like three-act structure and character arcs—but I was a writer. Once I’d made that identity, I took ownership of my journey—and I nurtured my writer self.
Show up and Nurture
Showing up and nurturing my writer self were the two most important steps I took on my writing journey EVERY SINGLE DAY. I have blogged a lot about the importance of writing every day, and this was something I figured out for myself around the same time I identified as a writer.
That daily affirmation & action can truly strengthen your resolve and help you stick to your short-term and long-term goals.
For me, taking ownership of my writing journey involved a sort of re-education and investment in my writer self. I began to attend more workshops and joined a writing group. I was more willing to share my work (and accept feedback, even the negative comments).
Learning and growing weren’t as scary under my new identity, plus I was able to give myself more grace. I forgave myself for not churning out ten indie works a year like my more prolific fellow writers. I was comfortable with the knowledge that I was re-launching my journey, starting over, and I wanted to do it the right way for me.
You are a Writer
Your writing journey is crafted by you and your belief system, how you talk to yourself and act on a daily basis. The more you struggle, the deeper you should look at how you perceive yourself.
-Do you engage in daily affirmations?
-Are you speaking kindly to yourself?
-Are you playing to your strengths?
-Do you step out of your comfort zone enough?
-Are you leaning on your support system, your team?
-Are you journaling through your questions and worries?
-Do you allow yourself grace to learn and grow?
-Do you compare yourself to others?
Take some time to explore these areas. Picture yourself as a writer (illustrate it in your journal if that helps) and imagine how your journey can unfold from this day forward.
Are you calling yourself a writer? Go deeper—do you believe that you’re a writer? Why or why not? Is there anything in your life that hinders your belief?
Have a writerly day!