There’s something about a title that makes a dream or aspiration sound official–actor, entrepreneur, writer. I didn’t feel like I could own the title writer until I had my first publishing success, but once I had a contract I proudly told anyone who would listen exactly what I was. A writer. Soon my identity was wrapped up in my so-called title, and when my dream went off into a ditch, I turned around and tried to ditch my dream.
So many factors contributed to the “ditch factor.” Our personal lives were disintegrating, about to change forever. Publishing opportunities that seemed like a sure thing vanished, and because no one was banging down my door for the next big story, it was easier to let writing go, to walk away from my goals and convince myself they didn’t matter. Shame over my failures began to take root, so I stopped pounding out the words, stopped telling people about my projects. Stopped calling myself a writer. (I even had the cliched mid-life crisis, but that, my friends, is a whole ‘nother post.)
It took longer to climb out of the ditch than it had to slide in, but you can only outrun the passion of your heart for so long before you finally wave the proverbial white flag. Through prayer and reflection, discussions with trusted friends and family members, I finally realized I’d invested too much of myself in the writing world to shut it off forever. It was farther looking back than looking forward.
The good news is, you don’t have to take the long way around the mountain like I did, and I wish someone had shared with me what I’m about to share with you so my whole identity didn’t blow up when life happened.
First, don’t let one thing become your identity. It seems so simple, but I had to learn this the hard way! Second, publishing contracts don’t make you a writer. Writing makes you a writer. That’s so profound it bears repeating:
Publishing contracts don’t make you a writer. Writing makes you a writer.
For the record, “writing” implies some sort of regularity. If you wrote an email once, you’re not a writer and this post is not for you 😉
On the other hand, you are a writer if:
- You write blog posts, articles and web content
- You pen poems, greeting cards and how-to guides
- You spill your guts onto the page even though no one will ever read it but you and God
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re only a writer if you write/publish fiction, as noted above. All writing counts and contributes to discovering and honing your unique voice. If you believe in what you’re doing, don’t think you’re “less than” simply because you’re new and have no credits, or you’ve been around for decades and aren’t swimming in contracts. Believe in your calling, believe in your gift and proudly call yourself a writer.