“I’m a writer” #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

How often do we say those words? And how often do we think about what we’re really saying? We strive to find the right words in our stories and our articles, but how often do we reflect on the words we casually use, and the meaning we may unconsciously reinforce?

Here are a few ways I’ve caught myself saying it.

With Uncertainty

“I’m a writer?” For much of my life it’s been a question I’ve tried to answer through my efforts. Even now there’s a part of me that wants proof, wants to achieve the same level of success as those I admire as an unbiased evaluation of my skill through financial success.

Doubt rears its head when writing gets hard, when the words won’t come, or those that do seem “all wrong”. And it comes on the heels of exultation. For a moment (however long it lasts) writing flows naturally, and I rest easy on the knowledge that I made real progress, until doubt slips in, whispering that I’m deceiving myself, that I’m blind to how bad my writing really is.

Sadly I don’t think uncertainty can ever be completely resolved, but that itself can be a source of strength. Whenever I find myself beset with doubt, I turn to stories that remind me that I’m not so different from other writers. Sometimes I reread positive feedback others have been kind enough to share with me, and other times I think back to writers I admire (like Neil Gaiman) who make no secret of their own struggles with doubt.

Reluctantly

“…and I’m a writer.” Tacked on like Eeyore’s tail, hoping no one would notice. This is how I said it for all of my teens and the first half of my twenties. I felt like it “wasn’t enough” to be a writer, as if I needed to invest more time or achieve some higher proficiency before I could truly and truthfully call myself a writer. Sometimes I used the phrase “aspiring writer” to make it clear that I “knew” I wasn’t one yet. But why?

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I was trying to separate myself from those I admire, to recognize that I wasn’t “one of them” yet. And while I still believe that there is always more to learn, there’s also a way in which what separates a financially successful author from a skilled and devoted one is simply how the shifting preferences of the public may favor one story over another, independent of the quality of the writing. I do believe that it takes a lot of skill to earn the interest of an audience of strangers, but it’s important to remember that the writer has to already possess that skill before it can happen. Success doesn’t change a writer; it merely reflects what was already true.

Boldly

“I’m a writer!” It doesn’t happen often, but once in a while, when words just flow, and the process itself seems to carry me along, I get a little full of myself. I relish in the godlike experience of creating an entire world, and the freedom to craft it any way I see fit. And truthfully, I find no fault with it.

Hubris can be a dangerous thing, but sometimes it’s exactly what’s needed to carry me through to the end of the story. I have met some writers who seemed a little too confident, a little too certain that they already knew everything they needed to know to craft a strong story, but that’s their journey, and if it works for them, good.

Often I end up using this voice to galvanize other young writers who still feel like there’s a pronounced difference between me and them. I tell them “You’re a writer! You just need to let go and ‘let yourself’ be a writer.” And of course they counter with those all too familiar doubts, which only further serve to remind me that in many ways “self-doubt” may be one of the most iconic features of a writer, in my opinion. Granted, I would never push someone to write if they truly didn’t want to, but if someone wishes to write, and doubt holds them back, I will tell them, over and over again, “You are a writer!”

Calmly

“I’m a writer,” uttered in a calm, matter of fact tone that doesn’t doubt or demand others agree because the truth is in that moment I know that I am, and that’s all that matters.

It’s something I’ve cultivated over a number of years, recognizing that writing is part of who I am, part of my nature. I may sometimes doubt whether I will ever achieve the level of success that I secretly wish for, but I no longer doubt that I will continue to write throughout my life. I will also do other things, but in everything I do, writing and storytelling will be a part of it. Stories are how I see the world, and writing is how I understand it.

How do you say “I’m a writer”?

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44 thoughts on ““I’m a writer” #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

    • Mmm. I think it does take time. I’ve read/heard speakers talk about how, for many, the “achievement” often feels ancillary because they had to achieve the right state of being before they could complete the task and earn the reward, but I think there are also cases where one doesn’t truly “become” until after you’ve “been” for a while. Of course one’s journey is a very personal thing. Fortunately we are not alone in struggling with names and labels, and with so many kindred spirits, there are plenty of opportunities to learn from each other, or simply empathize.

    • Morgan makes a great point. I think we’ve both been blogging for roughly the same amount of time, but still, I look at the pros out there and wonder at what point I should consider myself one of them.

  1. Mother Theresa was not valued by how much money she made. Money is not always the proper measuring stick. It’s definitely a benefit though but it doesn’t mean that someone who does not financially prosper through their talent is not successful. Just my age-old wisdom talking. I value your talent.

    • Thank you. Most kind, and I agree that money is not the only measure of skill, but there is a part of me that wants to spend more time on writing, and less time working a day job, in no small part because the more time I spend the more I will learn and grow.

  2. Good post, Adam. I think about this often, and you’ve done a good job summarizing what I’m sure many writers feel. Having spent over 30 years doing something completely different, it’s hard for me to say I’ve become a writer. It’s getting easier as my books are more widely read. Friends I’ve made in the past ten years associate me with my writing, so that helps, too.

    • It’s definitely an interesting aspect of the journey, how one doesn’t always “feel like one”, even though others would call you one. Sometimes I wonder if that “doubt”, or something deeper that causes it, is somehow a necessary component of the writing process, since so many writers speak of it, even after years of writing and clear proof that their skills are strong.
      I’m glad I was able to express it so well. Thank you.

    • Thank you.
      It is interesting, the words we choose to use to describe ourselves. We could have a whole discussion on the different labels we apply to ourselves, and how personal those words can be. I think there’s something fascinating in giving people a kind of “Rorschach question”. Some of my favorites are “who/what are you?” and “what do you want” (borrowed from Babylon 5, one of my favorite scifi shows growing up). They’re the kind of questions that could be taken in many directions, which grants the answer-er more freedom, and offers greater insight into who they are as a person, which is always interesting to me.

    • Well said! I think there is a way in which it’s often less about the achievement than it is about the choice to say it and believe it.
      Interesting side note, one of my favorite songs is called “Say” by Nemesea, and the chorus includes the phrase “Say it like you mean it, words are strong enough to make you swear.”
      Thank you.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this. I’ve identified with all of the different ways of saying “I’m a writer,” but lately I think I’ve been trying too hard to say it boldly. On the one hand, I’m fortunate that I’m in a position where I can really dedicate my time to writing, and so I feel like I should say it boldly. On the other, I’m in this position because I’m a grad student, and so I acknowledge that I have a lot to learn about this. (And, honestly, I know that I’ll be learning about this for the rest of my life; thank goodness I enjoy it!)

    All of your descriptions were so apt. I especially enjoyed the description of reluctance, saying “‘…and I’m a writer.’ Tacked on like Eeyore’s tail, hoping no one would notice.” So awesome.

    • Thank you as well. I’m glad you found it helpful.
      I agree that writing is a lifelong journey of learning, but that too can be rather comforting. If we ever do feel like we’re not “skilled enough” to write a particular story, we can also tell ourselves, “The answers are out there. I just have to find them.” The road is long, but we know there is “a way” through, if we are willing to keep working and learning.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the Eeyore reference. I feel like many a dreamer can relate to that character.
      I think I spent much of my life thinking I needed to be “something else” before I could be a writer; often it was a full time professional in another field, but eventually I realized that I didn’t want to wait, and I didn’t have to.
      That’s one of the things I really love about writing, how minimal the external resources are. The means to write are very common, very portable, and not terribly expensive. Compared to many other art forms, we’re really rather fortunate.
      And sometimes being bold is the way to go. I am by nature a rather shy introvert, but by adding in a rather strong “bold front” I manage to build up enough mental/emotional momentum to “carry me through” to halfway through an activity, and often by the time that runs out I’m too busy being engaged to remember that I’m not actually confident or outgoing.
      I hope grad school is treating you well.
      Thanks again for reading and sharing your thoughts. It’s always encouraging to strike up a conversation with fellow writers.

  4. An excellent creative post Adam. Thank you. I do tend to move through the spectrum of statements at different times. I think as a teen as I was more apt to write about personal topics to me and it was an excellent way to feel in control of my life again. I like how you acknowledge all of these phases as we should. Happy Hop Day 🙂

    • Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Happy Hop Day to you as well.
      I agree with you, and I think there are times where it’s helpful, even necessary, to occupy one of those mental states. It’s all part of the process. and journey.

  5. I can’t remember the last time I said I’m a writer with confidence. I pretty much always say it with uncertainty, because I’m afraid of disapproval. I’ve been judged before for not following a ‘normal’ path (and by normal, the people around me mean 9-5 steady job) so I’m reluctant to tell people what I do. I’m going to try saying I’m a writer boldly the next time someone asks 🙂

    • It can be difficult. Though normal can be so boring sometimes. I for one like adventure. Even saying it gives me a little thrill.
      I wager that at some point in the near future those normal people are going to wish they’d taken a different path, and start asking you for advice.
      Of course no matter how you say it, you are still a writer, but I hope you find yourself feeling more confident in your writing as time passes.
      Thanks for commenting.

    • Definitely. Granted, it’s a very personal choice, and for some the right choice is to let writing be a hobby, but I personally favor “going for it”, cause you can always choose to downgrade your efforts at a later point. I definitely find it easier to put in the time if I remind myself of how I want to be a writer.

    • Yeah, I think everyone wants to understand the “magic” that separates those that they very formally think of as “writers” from everyone else. Among my friends there’s often this perception that they could never write the way I do, even though I explain it’s just a matter of time. Granted everyone’s journey is different, but I do believe that over time someone’s writing will improve, and with enough time they will become equivalent in skill to someone they regard as a professional, though it may be a long journey, and they have to decide if it’s worth it to them.
      I definitely enjoy learning about different things by talking with those who are proficient at them, both scientists and craftsmen.

  6. Love this: “I do believe that it takes a lot of skill to earn the interest of an audience of strangers, but it’s important to remember that the writer has to already possess that skill before it can happen.” Those moments when you know you have reached someone you’ve never met (and probably never will) are so wonderful. I totally agree with the idea of success too. What that means changes frequently for me. Great post!

  7. Wow, this was a really fun, introspective post. I’ve said that phrase each way that you described, and I’m sure I will continue well after other people may term me a successful writer. Good to remember that we should be kind to ourselves and humble too!

    • Agreed. In some ways it reminds me of a story I read which essentially said “When you’re 25 you don’t always feel 25. Sometimes you feel 7, and you are, even as you’re also 25.” And I think the same is true of this. Some days we just don’t feel confident or calm, and that’s okay. And there’s definitely a way in which I feel like we often forget and relearn, cause there is just so much to learn 😅. But that’s also why I’m fond of writing. If we write down what we learn we don’t have to worry about forgetting it, cause we’ll stumble upon that little notation at some point.

  8. I’ve definitely used all those words (after several years of saying I wasn’t a writer at the same time as publishing 2-4 blog posts a week). Now I try to go for somewhere between bold and calm. But I don’t always succeed.

    • Sometimes I think the way may to be let go of the outcome, and focus on the choice to try, and the effort we put forth. Regardless of what the result is, the fact that we choose to keep trying is its own success. There are definitely days where I wish my efforts were more effective, but when the time comes all anyone can do is choose to try. Though with 2-4 blog posts a week I would say you definitely have other reasons to be proud, and confident.

  9. This raises some very good points – I must say I’m still in the reluctant phase because I’ve become so tired of arguing about whether or not its a real job! I hope to progress to thew calm stage one day soon however!

    • Unfortunately I think it is often a long road before others truly believe, but (while it may be cliche) all that matters is what you believe. I think there’s a way in which, if you regard it and treat it as a real job, it becomes one over time. In many ways it’s a harder job than most because you have to be the worker and the manager/taskmaster. But that is the dream we have chosen. I hope you find your calm and confident version soon. 🙂

    • True. Sometimes I wonder if doubt is a necessary component of being a writer. Certainly would be nice if “doubting” was in fact evidence that you are a writer, though who needs proof beyond words, and the medium upon which we arrange them.

  10. It’s odd how difficult is was to call myself a writer. I am many things, but calling myself a writer is one of them that somehow was intimidating. I am a puppy training for the BC & Alberta Guide Dogs. I am a skier. Those are easy to say. But what about being a writer? Before I became a writer, there was this mysterious person out there who could become a writer. It took me writing 3 novels before I would say out loud to someone, “I am a writer.” Somehow sharing doubts with others helps. Love the post today.

    • Thank you. I think it’s often easier to understand something when we see it from the outside. Our own perspective is uniquely ill-suited to help us understand ourselves sometimes.
      It is definitely difficult to see it in ourselves, particularly since it can often feel like “anyone who put in the same time would achieve comparable skill”, but whatever others could have done, it doesn’t change the fact that you did, and you are.

  11. I like to add an adjective in there – “I’m a beginning writer”. And that’s because this has only been in the works for a year or so. I feel too immature, or not ready, to truly believe that “I’m a writer”. I think so in my head, but it’s different when it’s vocalized by your own mouth.

    • Writing is definitely a funny thing. I mean on one level writing is something that many people do every day, and most writers are in fact writing for years, if not decades, before they start to (for lack of a better word) “formally” start to write. We have this need to separate “writing” from “Writing” because we need there to be a distinction, a line that separates the two, so that we can understand why we don’t feel like “Writers” and why our writing doesn’t feel like “Writing”. In many ways I think one of the biggest obstacles in the journey of writing is overcoming that misconception, that need to separate the two, because no matter how good we are, it seems like we always keep ourselves on the “writing” side. We define “Writing” as something we can’t do, and if we’re doing it then it can’t be “Writing”. But it is, and we are, and one part of that journey is learning to say it and believe it, though as with all things, patience is key.
      The most important thing is to keep at it (if you want to), and let yourself be whatever you are. If you do that, then someday you’ll wake up and realize “I am a Writer, and I have been for a long time.”

  12. I used to say it reluctantly because I didn’t want to people to ask me about what I wrote. That was when I was struggling to publish. Now I say it calmly. It took time to get here, though. 🙂

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