Are you proud to call yourself a writer? Proud of what you’ve done? Proud of what you’re hopefully someday going to do?
It’s OK if you aren’t. This is a very tough road filled with detours and forks and bad decisions (and good ones too!). I’m definitely not proud of some of the things I’ve written in the past. And when I hear about all the sensationalizing and exaggerating and whatever the heck else going on in many branches of media journalism, I’m almost embarrassed to admit I work in entertainment publishing.
But that doesn’t mean I’m embarrassed to admit I spend a significant portion of my time sitting in front of a computer screen making up stories, or that I don’t like talking about my work.
There are days I’m excited about something I’ve published and that excitement deflates a little when no one responds to or even reads it. I’m also in a position where many of my higher-traffic articles result in tweet storms of the troll variety (write just about anything related to Star Wars these days and the trolls will assemble).
I’ve had people tell me writing is a waste of time. I’ve had people tell me that my writing advice is stupid and gives people false hope.
I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, having different opinions and beliefs than me, or engaging in conversation with me. It’s my job as a writer to start conversations through the things I publish.
But there are people out there who will do everything they can to make you feel like you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing. And long before that happens, you’ll spend a lot of time sitting alone in front of your laptop staring at your work wondering if anything you ever create will matter to someone other than you.
I’m not going to spend an entire post talking about trolls. They don’t deserve the space. Moving on.
There are many reasons you might feel like you don’t deserve the title of “writer.” For some people, it’s the silence — feeling like they’re screaming (typing in all caps?) into a void and no one is listening. For others, it’s the voices — both internally and externally — telling them they are somehow less than because they play with words for a living and/or in their spare time.
It’s not true, of course. Being a writer doesn’t make you any of the things people might assume — that you can’t or don’t want to get a “real job” (that’s a fun one), that you aren’t doing work that matters, that you’re never going to be “as successful as so-and-so” because “all you do is make stuff up” (also, wow).
You shouldn’t feel ashamed or worthless. You should feel proud.
You should BE proud.
Be proud of all you’ve yet to accomplish and all you’ve already done.
Just started writing a novel for the first time? You’re a writer.
Starting to query agents while touching up your manuscript? You’re a writer.
Have a brand-new blog you’ve just started creating content for? You’re a writer.
Just published your first book? You’re a writer.
Won an award for writing something cool? You’re a writer!
Just because someone didn’t like your work doesn’t mean you’re not a “real” writer. Just because you don’t write every day doesn’t mean you lack the qualifications to refer to yourself as a writer. If no one is reading your work and you feel hopeless, guess what? You. Are still. A writer.
And you deserve that title regardless of your level of success, how long you’ve been doing it, or what other people might feel they have to say about it.
Even more than that, you deserve to OWN it.
I’m very shy about my writing and don’t bring up the fact that I’m a writer unless someone asks. If they are interested, I’m happy to talk about my work with them. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I talk to imaginary people and sentences often begin writing themselves in my head without my consent. I’m proud of my stories. They’re an important part of who I am.
Do I still get discouraged when an article or blog post I’m proud of totally bombs? Of course I do — everyone does! Do I feel slightly frazzled when people aren’t nice? Yes, because I’m human and humans don’t like to be yelled at. The more you do this, the thicker your shell grows. You will never become immune to disapproval or feeling like you’re being ignored or looked over, but you do learn to stop letting it bother you — if you choose to.
How do you learn to be proud of what you do? You just keep on doing it. Sometimes I write things I’m not very confident about, but if they aren’t good things, someone will hopefully tell me that. I’m still proud of myself for writing it even though I was unsure. I still did the work. I took a chance.
Do the same. And be proud of that. Be proud to be YOU! Because no one else can.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.