For years, I struggled with calling myself a writer. I wrote and wrote and wrote. And yet, after all that writing, I was still waiting.
For what, exactly? To become a writer.
I doubted myself, downplaying my passion and telling others I was merely an aspiring writer.
Secretly, I hoped to someday get permission to call myself what, deep down inside, I knew I already was. I was just afraid to admit it.
Do you struggle with this? Does it plague you, as it does most writers?
Here's the secret “real writers” know…
There is one and only one way to become a writer. It's hard. It may take years of practice and pain.
But once you do it, it'll make all the difference.
Do you want to know what it is, what finally makes you a writer? Here it is, the only way I know of to become a writer:
Say you're one.
When I interviewed Steven Pressfield, I asked him, “When does a writer become a writer?”
He said, in the most eloquent way possible, what I dreaded to hear:
You are a writer when you tell yourself you are. No one else’s opinion matters. Screw them. You are when you say you are.
It took me a long time to do this
This is true, but it doesn't mean it's easy.
Even after publishing articles and blog posts for years and finally getting a book deal, I still sometimes struggle to feel like a real writer.
After all, don't real writers spend all day writing in restaurants and stay disciplined at all costs?
Don't they stick to their ideals and not care about fans, but still manage to sell a million books? Don't they smoke cigarettes and live in New York City and effortlessly create masterpieces overnight?
No, they do not.
For those of us who aspire to be pros, we often relegate the title of “real writer” to somewhere unattainable, to some sphere of life we will never reach.
And this is just foolish. Not to mention unfair.
My wakeup call came when I was part of a personal coaching program last year. All eleven of us in the group were standing around, sharing our dreams, and I said, “I guess mine is to be a writer.”
Then Paul, who'd read my blog, turned to me, stared me in the eyes and said,
Jeff, you don't have to dream of being a writer. You are a writer. You just need to start writing.
Ever since then, despite my doubts, I have called myself a writer.
Start calling yourself a writer — today
You may not want to. You may hate it at first. Every critical bone in your body may rebel against this. But you need to it, anyway.
Call yourself a writer. A real one. And start doing it today.
Not aspiring. Not some day. Do this now and remember the rush you feel when the words leave your lips and you begin to believe that you could actually do this — that you actually are this.
Ignore your feelings right now. This is a discipline, and one you need to practice daily. At first, it will feel a little uncomfortable. Which is why you need to do it now.
Because only when you start believing what is true about yourself will you be able to live it.
Of course, like so many things, this is not just true of writing, but of life — any vocation, really. And if this describes how you're talking about your life's work, it's time for a change.
Time to start calling yourself what you already are.
What's something you're struggling to call yourself, but know is true about you? Share in the comments.
*Photo credit: Mark Gayn (Creative Commons)