It’s amazing the difference a word makes. Last year my most significant word was “writer”.
It seems pretty innocuous when you look at it, just sitting there on the page. It’s not a threatening word, not necessarily all that exciting either, but for years the thought of using it to describe myself felt monumental. How could I possibly flatter myself with that title? It felt incredibly presumptuous somehow (and a little bit pretentious too).
Admittedly, I’ve been writing for just about as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is of my mum buying me a ‘journalist’s notepad’ (and boy, did I feel fancy when she gave me that). I vividly remember sitting down with that notebook and a brand new biro and writing my first story. Now, I won’t pretend it was groundbreaking work (it was about woodland creatures having a picnic, so immediately lost on originality) but it was the beginning of my longest standing relationship. Ever since that point I have been in love with writing.
So, why the reluctance to add that word to my public identity? Well, the main problem here, I believe, lies in two simple words: imposter syndrome. That feeling of being a fraud, the fear of being caught out, the idea that maybe somewhere there are hidden criteria that you don’t meet. Typically this would lead me to several recurring questions: Am I good enough? Don’t you have to be published first? Do I actually have something of interest to say?
It turns out all of those questions, and the thinking and nerves that come with them, are exhausting. So, it became easier not to think about it. Writing just for me, in private, felt safe and so I accepted that for a long time.
So, what changed? Well, at a time when my career began to feel a little static I began looking for development elsewhere. I started volunteering at the youth service of a health charity, which supported young people through creative activities. Through my love of youth work I rediscovered the joy I felt when I was working creatively. Slowly writing crept increasingly back into my consciousness because, you know what? I do have an awful lot to say.
That shift in mindset gave me the confidence I needed to take a story writing class, a decision which gave me the next bit of momentum that I needed. In the class we discussed the idea of being a writer and whether we thought of ourselves in that way. I found myself in a supportive environment of amazing women, who I saw clearly as writers, all saying the same things I had been worrying about for years. Realising that I wasn’t alone in those feelings unleashed my confidence like nothing else and I haven’t looked back.
Not long afterwards I added “writer” to my online bios, set a personal objective at work around writing and I’ve had several stories and articles published. I now write regularly and am part of a brilliant writing group who encourage and inspire me (and who I can have geeky writing chats with too). It feels incredible to embrace one of my passions wholeheartedly and I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner.
So, I suppose what I’m trying to say is, don’t be afraid to take a chance because it’s amazing the difference just one word can make. It can rework your life in unimaginable ways.
This piece originally featured in the beautiful She is Fierce magazine this spring, the theme of which was “reworked” (and the amazing cover is the image for this post). The issue felt like a perfect opportunity to explore my growth as a writer which has been a significant aspect of my life in the last year.
The writing course mentioned was with the amazing Write Like a Grrrl, which I will recommend to anyone and everyone who will listen!