Starting last January, my friends Nina, Sarah, and I worked through the Artist Way. The Artist Way is a 12 chapter/week course on creativity developed by Julia Cameron. There was lots of great ideas and skills to help grow creativity. But it wasn’t until I finished the last chapter that I had my major Artist Way breakthrough. It was a simple thought – “I am a writer.”
Cameron often mentioned that blocked creatives would surround themselves with art and artists rather than making their own art. I definitely have spent a lot of energy supporting other artists, which I don’t mind doing. I find inspiration in their work. But I think I my thoughts and language about my art was how I surrounded myself with art, but not claim it as my own.
When people questioned me about what I make, I always had the same response regardless of what I was working on. “Oh, you’re a poet?” and I’d respond, “No, I just like writing poetry. I’m not trained enough to be a poet.” Oh, you’re an artist?” No, I just like to make things. I always have random ideas to make things.” Oh, you’re a writer?” No, I like to write. It’s a way to connect with others.” Never would I say – Yes, I’m a poet. Yes, I’m an artist. Yes, I’m a writer. The most you could coax out of me was “I’m a creative,” which was generic enough in my mind to not mean anything.
I’ve spent a lot of time in my life questioning my ability to write. Starting back in high school, when a teacher told me, I was a horrible writer. If I had any confidence in my writing, I totally lost it all at that point. Since then, I’ve always had the desire and drive to write, but it was tainted with the doubt that I could write.
Borrowing from Jay Smooth, I developed a healthy little hater voice in my head. That evil voice would always be there when I had an idea to write. “Oh isn’t that cute? What makes you think anyone wants to hear about that? Do you even know enough about that topic to have an opinion? Well, that’s just stupid. You can’t even write, so why do you keep trying?”
I’ve done a lot of writing since that high school teacher told me I couldn’t write. I wrote my master’s thesis. I became an expert at online communication. I published articles in newspapers. I wrote a blog. I wrote poetry. Even though I did all this work to improve my writing and started to receive praise for my writing, I still could not claim that I was a writer. That hater voice was always there to tell me I was a fraud.
It was quite a shock that after 6 months of working through the Artist Way and my brain screams “I’m a writer.” I was like holy shit, what does that mean if I actually claim it. I’m a writer! How does the world look if I’m a writer. If writer is as much a part of me as my DNA, does that change how I relate to writing.
Honestly, it was a relief! Believing that writing is as much a part of me as breathing, released the pressure that I have to prove myself as a writer. As long as I’m writing, I’m a writer. I’m going to write the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s all okay. I have a need that is part of my foundation of self. If I don’t do it, I’m not being true to myself. So I must write, and that writing is for me.
Now, every time my hater voice reappears, I have my response, my mantra. I’m a writer. It doesn’t matter what you say, because I’m a writer. And when I get the urge to procrastinate and avoid writing with things like you need to do more research or you need to read more, I can hold myself more accountable. “Hey writer, just get those words on the page.” I don’t have the excuse that I’m only doing some writing and let other projects get in the way. I’m a writer. It’s something I have to do to be me, not just something I want to do.