February 26, 2014 Christi

On What Makes A Real Writer

I received this note:

I’ve gone back and forth about writing and decided it was time to reach out. Dr. Codger is killing me lately.

I’m feeling like a sham as if any day someone will look under the sheet and say “Ah ha! We knew you couldn’t be a writer. Who did you think you were you fooling?”

I’m reading your book and employing all the tricks I know to shut him up but it feels like Dr. Codger is winning. Do/did you suffer from severe self-doubt? Even though I’ve written my way through my life, maybe I’m not really a writer?

This letter went right to my heart. I know exactly how it feels to be riddled with self-doubt, and it’s no picnic.

There are times even now, after more than twenty years of calling myself a writer, when I doubt myself and my work.

That internal critic and killjoy, Dr. Codger, says things like: “Well, sure, you’ve published stories and poems and books and such. But what about your autobiographical novel? It hasn’t sold to a publisher. You must not be a real writer.”

Or: “If you were a real writer, you wouldn’t procrastinate. I mean, it’s been over two months since you’ve put out a newsletter!”

Or: “If you were a real writer, you would never have had to self-publish your last book.”

Or: “If you were a real writer, people would notice your stories and poems when they come out, instead of ignoring them.”

All of these thoughts seem part of a diabolical design to tear me down and make me relinquish the proud title of “writer.”

Here’s the deal. I’m a real writer because I write. The end results of my work are not up to me. Whether a publisher wants my words, or whether an audience purchases my book, or whether I am noticed and celebrated or utterly ignored—these things are not what determine my path.

Neither will it stop me if I am feeling critical of my own work, or dissatisfied with my stories, or frustrated with a project. It won’t stop me, that is, unless I let it.

It’s so easy to let feelings and circumstances tell us who we are. But as the above writer said, “I’ve written my way through life.”

Despite all opposition, there it is: the deep-down pull to create. That desire won’t go away, no matter how much discouragement there is at the surface level.

Yield to the call.

Decide it is more important than your doubts.


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