Will I ever feel like a “Real” Writer?
By Alison Stone
This morning I went to the bank to make a deposit. The teller was finishing up the transaction when she squinted at her screen and said, “Oh, I need to update your profile. Where do you work?”
“I’m self-employed,” I answered, always feeling like it’s a trick question.
She looked up from her screen. “What do you do?”
For some inexplicable reason, my heart races in my ears every time someone asks me this question. Do I mumble something about having an engineering degree, but I’ve been home with the kids for 15 years and now I write? No, too long. I decide to go for the direct answer: “I’m an author.” Yet, the words feel funny on my lips.
Interest sparks in her eyes. “Really? What do you write?”
“I write romantic suspense for Harlequin.”
The teller angles her head and studies me. “Do you ever get writer’s block?”
I glance behind me, sure the customers in line are growing impatient, but there is no one in line.
I shrug. “The worst problem is procrastination, like running to the bank when I’m supposed to be writing.”
She laughs. I’ve always been great with humor, but telling people I’m a writer. Not so much.
Why is that?
When I decided I wanted to become an engineer, I had no problem telling people I’m going to school for engineering. When I was a young professional, I told people I worked for General Motors without missing a beat. Was it because engineering and corporations are more concrete? People can relate to that? Everyone has a job, right? How many people sit at home in yoga pants writing novels?
Yet, when I do own up to my new career, people are inevitably fascinated. When I was an engineer, I never had a bank teller ask me eagerly how I conducted efficiency studies on the manufacturing floor. Yawn.
Is my hesitation to tell people I’m a writer due to my own insecurities?
For over ten years, I taught myself how to write a novel. (Can’t say I took any creative writing classes at Georgia Tech!) I was a closet writer. Only my husband and my close friends knew I wrote. Only my husband knew how much I wrote. I think my friends thought it was a hobby, like cross stich or putting together puzzles. By not sharing my writing, I think I was trying to protect myself from having to share what I thought would be my inevitable failure.
During this long journey, I’d look up the biographies of other writers and lament every time an author’s bio read something like this: I’ve been reading novels since age four and I penned my own at age eight. I have a degree in English and a Masters in Creative Writing.
Groan. I wanted a Masters in Creative Writing. I didn’t even read novels for fun until after I graduated from college. (Shhh…don’t tell anyone.) How did I ever expect to be a writer when I took calculus, physics, and thermodynamics? And we all know that writers are terrible at math. (I only say this because many seem to lament their math skills as much as I lament my lack of formal training for “authordom.”) See, I’m good at math. Does this mean I’m a terrible writer? A fraud?
Why do I think I can be a writer? This was the constant refrain running through my head on my long journey to publication. These doubts slowed my progress. It was easier to talk myself into taking a night off from writing if I didn’t think I was going to be successful anyway.
Finally, finally in 2011, I sold two sweet romantic suspense novels to Samhain Publishing. A year later I sold my first book to Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense. To date, I have four books contracted by Harlequin. Yet, I still don’t feel like a “real writer.”
I get nervous when a fellow writer asks me to critique her work. Does she really value my opinion? I sweated it out when the wonderful Missy Tippens invited me to stop by Seekerville. How can I write a better post on the topic of plotting, or creating villains, or layering my work when authors more knowledgeable than I have already done so?
Recently, a friend introduced me by saying, “This is my friend, the writer.”
I smiled and shrugged it off and she said, “You never tell people you’re a writer, so I have to tell them for you.”
Her words hit home.
I am a writer. Aren’t I?
Funny thing is, I’m not a wallflower. If you met me in person you’d consider me outgoing and as one friend once told me at an RWA conference, “Wow, you really know how to work a room!”
Just goes to show you that what’s on the inside doesn’t always match the outside.
If you’re experiencing similar doubts when it comes to your writing, here are some suggestions:
1) Repeat this phrase over and over (and I apologize for paraphrasing): I wouldn’t have the desire to write if God hadn’t given me a talent to write. I truly believe this. When the seed of an idea to try my hand at writing was planted in my brain, it wouldn’t have taken root if God hadn’t already blessed me with some innate ability.
2) Educate yourself. I read a gazillion (there’s my math coming into play!) craft books and have taken numerous online workshops. Ask authors you respect what craft books or workshops they recommend. Check out the wonderful workshops advertised on this blog.
3) Read. Read across genres. Decide what you like and what you don’t like and why? Sometimes knowing why you don’t like something goes a long way to improving your craft.
4) Write. Writing is hard. Writing when you doubt you’re a real writer is even harder. But if you write, even if you never get published, you ARE A WRITER. The sense of accomplishment from tackling the blank page is awesome.
5) Network. Whether it’s a local writers’ group or online writer friends. You won’t feel so lonely and it’s great to have someone who understands the crazy ups and downs we writers (yes, WE WRITERS) experience.
6) Focus on what you can control. Whether you are published or on the journey toward publication, don’t get caught up in things that are out of your control. For example, shake off the bad review, the rejection, or the poor sales. Instead focus on what you can truly control: writing the next best book you can.
|photo credit: Crestock/creatista|
I share this story with you to reassure you that no matter where you are on your writing journey, it’s normal to have doubts and insecurities. But we must not let them stop us from writing. Stop us from moving forward. Stop us from achieving our dreams.
While I was mulling this post over, a quote popped up on my Facebook feed. I believe we receive messages right when we need them most:
“The sign of intelligence is that you are constantly wondering. Idiots are always dead sure about every damn thing they are doing in their life.”― Jaggi Vasudev
Perhaps this fear, this uncertainty, this “wondering” is what drives up to keep improving. This doesn’t automatically change when you sign your first contract or self-publish your first book. It takes time.
How much time?
I’ll let you know.
Meanwhile, I’ll be writing the best book I know how.
Have you experienced similar feelings? How have you overcome them? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section. I’ll be giving away a digital copy (Amazon or Barnes and Noble / US only) of Plain Pursuit, my first Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense, to one random person who comments.
Thanks for stopping by! ~ Alison
Bio: Alison Stone left Buffalo, New York and headed a thousand miles south to earn an industrial engineering degree at Georgia Tech in Hotlanta. Go Yellow Jackets! She loved the South, but true love brought her back North.
After the birth of her second child, Alison left Corporate America for full-time motherhood. She credits an advertisement for writing children's books for sparking her interest in writing. She never did complete a children's book, but she did have success writing articles for local publications before finding her true calling, writing romantic suspense.
Alison lives in Western New York with her husband of twenty years and their four children where the summers are absolutely gorgeous and the winters are perfect for curling up with a good book—or writing one.
Besides writing, Alison keeps busy volunteering at her children's schools, driving her girls to dance, and watching her boys race motocross.
Alison can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AlisonStoneAuthor. Her website is www.AlisonStone.com. Her twitter handle is @Alison_Stone.
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