For most of my life, it was difficult to say the words “I’m a writer” to anyone. Even when I’d already completed a few manuscripts. Even after I’d spent the majority of my life scribbling thoughts and life lessons, writing poems, or jotting down stories. Still, I never felt I deserved to own that identity. That belief stemmed from the fact that I didn’t have any published works and couldn’t physically hold my book in my hands. Without that, I thought I couldn’t call myself a writer. Why do so many of us have this issue?
When I joined the writing community, I found I wasn't the only one who dealt with this imposter syndrome. All those feelings of being a fraud only fueled the already overwhelming sense of self-doubt, which can kill creativity.
But it’s not true. We aren't frauds.
And only until recently have I started to really own my identity as a writer. Is it easy? Nope. But as I think about my own writing journey, I realized I’ve been a writer all along. In recognizing this, it’s given me the confidence to own it.
Fair warning: this is a bit long. But if you’re someone like me, you may find that you too have had similar experiences. Here’s how I know I deserve to call myself a writer.
The Early Years
Before I could ever really write, I had always made up stories. My parents told me I was highly imaginative. For example, I would draw a door on the wall in my closet (don’t worry, it was pencil) and dreamed up all the lands that could lie beyond that door if I found a way to open it. Or, as an avid reader even at a young age (I was all about D.E.A.R. time), I had wished there was an invention where I could dive into books and truly live inside of my favorite stories.
When I was about eight years old, I struggled with speech. I remember my father telling me to slow down and think about what I was saying because sometimes when I tried to speak, my words would get all jumbled. Maybe it has to do with the way my introverted brain works, or maybe my mouth can’t keep up with how fast my brain works. Either way, I turned to writing as a way to communicate when I felt like speaking failed me. I’ve gotten a lot better through the years, but I still prefer text or email instead of a phone call.
My love of writing didn't go unnoticed by my teachers, though. At the end of fifth grade, my teacher handed me a journal with a note that encouraged me to keep writing. That was the first time I really felt validated. (Well, unless you count all the crappy poems my mom kept.)
Yay. Teenage angst. This is where all the best writing really started. Writing had transformed into documenting my awareness of life. I was now seeing things. Learning things. Feeling things. And I needed an outlet to write what I couldn’t say. My hopes. My fears. The things that hurt me. First loves. First heartbreaks. Broken friendships. All that fun stuff.
It also was the first time I considered writing a novel. My sophomore year, I had started and stopped writing a book probably ten times. The idea was in my head, and I had written down character notes, but I couldn't figure out a way to start the story. I probably made it about three chapters in before I'd get stuck. I eventually abandoned it. I just didn’t have the knowledge or life skills yet to write effectively. I still have the story idea written in my notebook, so maybe someday I’ll finish it.
Junior year is when I felt like I could believe in my writing, that maybe my writing was even somewhat decent. My English teacher that year—sadly now deceased—was a wild man. He had been a rock star in the 70s with some crazy stories. He was also hard to impress. One assignment required us to write a two-page short story. I ended up writing a dark, suspenseful thriller that lasted about eight pages. He had loved it so much, he'd read it to every single one of his classes, even the ones that had nothing to do with this assignment. It's a memory I'll never forget. It meant the world to me.
My senior year had a lot of emotional baggage thanks to bullying, horrible rumors, unfaithful first loves, and selfish best friends. My English teacher had assigned a paper called “The Things I Carry.” The goal was to write about both the tangible and intangible things we carry every day. It was one of my favorite things to write and showed me how writing could be an outlet for depression and anxiety. I loved being able to write about the emotional burdens weighing me down as I went through the motions of life and how sometimes we all strain under the weight of these intangible things, but no one would ever know.
How I Survived College
Most of my close friends and loved ones know I hated school. It’s not that I was bad at it, nor did I have a difficult time with it. It was actually the opposite, unless you count those awful science or math classes. My issue with school was that I hated sitting in classes being talked at. I need to actually do things to learn it.
After about two years of college, I discovered online school. It gave me the flexibility to work full time and get the experience I needed while also earning the degree. The best part about it? I didn't have to sit in class. I did my coursework on my own time, at a pace that worked for me. I also learned that a big chunk of our grade had to do with homework, which was all written assignments. Easy peasy for me.
Plus, it didn’t hurt to have the flexibility to take some fun electives like creative writing!
Becoming a Novelist
At 23, I gave it a go again and tried my hand at writing a full-length novel. It took a while, but I completed it about two years later. My first novel, Secrets of Serendipity, showed me that I had what it took to be a novelist. It also opened my eyes to the stressful world of querying and publishing. I did have a micro-publisher make an offer, but I ended up refusing it. I knew I needed time to become a stronger writer.
Unfortunately, my writing journey stopped when I moved to Boston. For nearly three years, I couldn’t find it in me to produce a complete manuscript. I tried. I really did. But for some reason, Boston was like a black hole for my creativity. I didn’t start writing again until I moved back to Charleston in 2016.
Two years ago, almost to the day, I started a new story. I was going through a bit of depression and used writing to escape. A year later, I finished my romantic suspense No Place to Hide. And in completing this, it inspired me to really take my writing more seriously. As soon as I was done writing it, I looked into how to get better as a writer. I also created a cadence so I never lost the momentum. When I finished editing that story, I immediately began writing Saving the Winchester Inn. And after that, I went on to write two more novels. With this process, it no longer took me years to finish the first draft. I focused myself, created a process that worked for me, and now average about three months to complete a first draft.
Less than a year ago, I finally dove into the writing world with gusto. I committed to the notion that I would publish a book, whether it was self-published or traditionally published. To do that, I needed to learn.
I joined the writing community, built out my digital writer brand, got accepted into RWA, invested in workshops, bought books on writing, purchased tickets to attend RWA Nationals, participated in the helpful writing Facebook groups, attended webinars, joined pitching contests, and more.
I landed an agent and now have a book on submission. I’m also learning the self-publishing process for another one of my stories and hired editors/designers to help me produce a quality book.
I never gave up.
I'll be going on 32 in September, and I hope my first novel will be published soon after that. But even if I never publish that book, I will still have the confidence to say I'm a writer. Published or not, writing is in my DNA. It's who I am. And since I started to accept that fact these last few months, I didn’t realize how important it was to me. It’s such a strange feeling to come into my own. It's bursting out of me, and I have no idea how I ever kept it hidden for so long. Now, it's all I think about.
This is me. I’m a writer. What about you?
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