I am a writer.
Four simple words. Should be easy enough to say, right?
Well, they are easy for me to say, but it hasn't always been that way. A few years ago, when I first became serious about writing, I couldn't have said those words if my life depended on it. Not only was I afraid I hadn't earned my stripes by reaching the qualifying milestone--publication--but tagging myself with the label made me feel like I was painting a bullseye on my chest, like I was making myself a target for naysayers, skeptics, criticism, etc. And I'm betting there are a lot of beginning writers out there who feel the same way I did.
But after an intense, neverending study of the writing craft and the publishing industry, and after completing one manuscript followed by numerous edits, I have no qualms about telling you I'm a writer. Here are a few reasons why:
I realized I've always been a writer, even before I started writing. Writing is more than putting words on paper. It's more than having a general knowledge of grammer and a talent for making words flow smoothly. It's more than an overactive imagination that makes it possible to plot and create. It's more than having the courage to put myself and my thoughts under the microscope for others to judge and dissect. Though writing is certainly all those things, it is also a state of mind, a way of life, a part of who I am. Whether or not I take the time to record the words, they are always there waiting for me, and always have been.
My skin has thickened, giving me staying power. When I finished my first draft, I was terrified at the thought of letting anyone read it. In fact, the day after I left it with a published friend to read for the first time, I went back to get it (unread) and did a full revision before I relinquished it again. Criticism is scary, and it hurts. So does rejection, no matter how often we are told it's normal. But both, I now realize, are necessary to improving my work. So I have come to expect them, to welcome and learn from them.
I like chocolate. You like vanilla. And I now understand that's okay. Tough guys tend to like action. Techno-geeks tend to like science-fiction. Scholars tend to like an intellectual challenge. And the list goes on. So I have come to not let it bother me when a friend who loves Louis Lamour doesn't show enthusiasm for my sappy love story. And I no longer let it hurt my feelings that my sister who hasn't read a book in ten years, won't read one now, even mine.
I have earned the right to say I am a writer, and chances are you have, too. But if you find it difficult, I'll leave you with some helpful advice:
Say it is so, and so it will be. To feel legitimate, declare yourself outloud, first to yourself and then to your friends and family. Saying and hearing the words build your self-esteem, and therefore, have a direct impact on how others see you. And your work will benefit from the confidence that comes with saying the words. Try it. It works.