For many years I hid from becoming a writer. Even when I was in hiding, I was still a writer in my heart and soul. But I was not putting myself out there——and now I know why I was so scared.
To back up a minute: I’ve wanted a career in writing since I was about 10 years old. I majored in creative writing at college and did well in my classes. I wasn’t a prodigy, but I had some skills.
After graduating college, I moved to New York City. In a town full of publishing houses, magazines, newspapers, and ad agencies, I didn’t know what to do with my major. I hadn’t applied myself in school. I didn’t write for the literary magazine or the campus paper. There was nothing to distinguish me from every other person who wanted to write for a living.
I still could have tried to launch a writing career without any credits to my name. But I didn’t.
Flash forward three decades (yes, decades), and I finally decided to do something about my situation. Two years ago, I launched this blog. One year ago, I signed up for a writing program that encouraged me to build my online profile, pitch articles to outlets, and develop a book proposal.
For the first time in decades, I started thinking of myself as a writer with stories and opinions to share with the world, not just a writer inside my own head. I had energy and ideas, and the words started pouring out.
But. (There’s usually a but with me.) Suddenly, I was connected with other writers who seemed so talented and driven. I felt compelled to ask myself: Who am I as a writer? And most importantly: Do I like who I am? Can I live with who I am?
A few things I am not:
A sassy writer. I am actually pretty funny in person, but I’m not comfortable being humorous on the page—it feels forced.
A lyrical writer. I am not poetic or “dazzling.” I am not a master of metaphor.
A sophisticated writer. I do not have an impressive reserve of literary references. My style is not bold or experimental.
A few things I am:
A relatable writer. Yeah, I’m basic. Ordinary. In a good way, I believe.
An honest writer. I am willing to spill my guts for my readers. And I’m not afraid to get political.
An idea writer. I live to find the ideas at the core of my writing, the concepts that help illuminate our shared humanity.
A readable writer. I enjoy spending time constructing sentences and paragraphs that are clear and flow well.
Are those two lists a bearable trade-off?
Sometimes I read a beautiful or hilarious sentence by a brilliant writer, and I look up from the page or screen. I sigh and wonder if I should try harder to be a different kind of writer.
I never want to give up on becoming a better writer. Honing my existing skills is a must. But can I teach myself to be more poetic? Can I practice putting my wit into words? Can I bone up on literary stuff?
Or, should I spend my energy learning to appreciate who I am already as a writer and finding ways to make that work for me?
This is why I was scared all those years, though I wasn’t fully conscious of it. I was hiding from the pain of my own expectations, my self-judgment, the fear of facing my identity as a writer. And, if I have to be totally honest, the fear of facing my identity as a person. I’ve long been afraid that my authentic self is not cool or classy or intellectual enough to reach some to-be-determined level of success that will validate my worth.
These past few years I’ve been figuring out how to accept myself, to love the woman inside while gently nudging her forward. Because I’ve realized that the validation I so desperately crave needs to come from within.
Recently I ventured a wee bit out of my comfort zone on an essay. The two people I showed it to urged me to make substantial edits. My first reaction was defensive—I wanted to dig in my heels because their input felt like a wallop to my ego. Once I got over myself, and made the revisions, they really paid off. Clearly there is room to stretch within my wheelhouse without having to reinvent myself.
My aim is to elevate my craft while playing to my strengths and exploring my passions. My main goal is to reach people with my writing, help them feel not so alone, and shine light onto interesting paths. As long as I work at doing that, I won’t need to hide anymore.
6 thoughts on “The Writer in Me: Hiding No More”
This is so inspiring! I think a lot of people can relate to that post-graduate struggle where you’re not sure what to do with your degree. I’m currently going through the same thing. There’s expectations that you have to be a certain way to succeed within the industry. I realised recently that I can still be myself and follow my passions. Even if the mainstream routes don’t work for me, I always calve a space for myself. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks for commenting. Carving a space for ourselves is so important. Finding a way to honor our skills and our passions while making it work. I appreciate your support!
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I love how you can identify the types of writer you are and are not, which itself is a special writing skill! You are right in that there is a balance between wanting to improve your craft and wanting to embrace who you are and each of us must learn to navigate that balance. My writing has definitely morphed over the years. Coming from an English major background (and being a total introvert), relatability is something I struggled with at first but I learned that I must master this somewhat if I want people to read my stuff. Still, you aren’t going to find me using the latest memes and colloquialisms (and yes, the fact that I call them “colloquialisms” is telling).
Thanks Kate! I know what you mean with memes and the latest lingo. Sometimes I try to use trendy phrases, but just like humor they can sound forced to me. I am fascinated by how these new conventions reach a tipping point where they become commmonplace, how so many people embrace them seemingly at once. Thanks again for your comment.
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I suggest that you stop being so over critical and write only for yourself…That’s how all the best things would flow out of you…
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Thanks for your encouragement. I’m working on it! My next blog post will be posted soon, and it’s about my tendency to cling to stress and negativity. I have been digging through this issue, and I think I’m finally ready to move on!