December 20, 2018
Attitude can make a big difference in your writing, and we often overlook its importance.
Are you apologetic about the time you spend writing?
Do you let minor things crowd it out of your daily task list?
Is it something you dream of having time for, someday?
Are you hesitant to call yourself a writer?
Does the thought of investing money in your writing seem like a luxury?
All of these things are part of an attitude of disrespect toward your writing, a kind of devaluing. And this kind of devaluing can rob you of momentum, energy, and success. It's incredibly harmful to reaching your goals but it happens to nearly all of us sometimes.
Why do we let ourselves fall into the trap of a bad attitude toward writing? A number of things can be at play. We might simply be internalizing negative messages we've heard about ourselves and about our writing. Or we might be seeing writing as something incredibly special and therefore probably not something we can achieve. Because writing is an art as well as a craft and potential business, people can be hesitant to sound proud or boastful by declaring themselves to be "writers." So let's look at these two problems more closely.
Negatives Can Eat Up Your Creative Energy
Many writers have heard some pretty horrid things about themselves throughout their lives. In some ways, this is something we share with comedians (who often find their humor comes from painful places.) For some, it was this very aspect of our lives that pushed us toward writing. We needed a place to explore the pain and a way to reach out to others and help. But to be able to do that, we really need to cut the pipeline that is sucking away your confidence and energy through negative beliefs. If you've heard negative things about your competence, your creativity, and your value, it can be hard to refocus on appreciating the value of who you are and what you're doing.
The reality is that writing has value. Your writing has value. Even if you're still learning the ropes in spots and still building skills in areas. Even if you're not quite ready for the success you dream of, the writing you're doing right now has value. It's a step toward taking all the negatives you've lived with and turning them into something amazing. Stories can be healing, so you’re learning to be a healer. That takes time, but the learning is worth the effort.
Not everyone is likely to see your writing as valuable. You may have had a lot of manure piled into your life from others, but you can use that to grow a garden. Turn the negatives on their head by recognizing them when they come at you (or come from you). As you hear them, tell yourself, "Yup, that's some of that compost. Time to plant more flowers." Tear your eyes away from fixating on the compost, and refocus on planning the garden. The compost has value in a garden but if it's the only thing you lay down, you're never going to get flowers from it. Change your focus to the seeds. What seed can you plant in the compost of negative messages? What can you grow here? Everything in a writer’s life has potential use, so look for the use instead of letting the negatives swamp you.
It's Okay to be a Writer
I'm a writer. I've been a writer for a long time. I was a writer before I was published the first time. I was a writer before I wrote my first novel. I was a writer because I had all these stories in me and I told myself stories all the time. I told myself stories about the situations I was in. I told myself stories based on things I heard and read. And sometimes I wrote about them. I wrote a ton of poetry and I wrote short stories. Early on I didn't have the skills to sustain a novel, but I started a lot of them. And I learned from all this writing. And I kept at it. I was and I am a writer. These days I'm a professional writer. It's how I make my living. But long before I was a professional writer, I was a writer.
There's nothing boastful about accepting that I am a writer. Sometimes I'm a pretty good writer. Sometimes, meh. I tend to be a pretty realistic person, but I also write. And thus I am a writer. And if you write, you are a writer. Now, I'm also a lot of other things. I do wood-burning and I sew and I sketch. I think of myself as a crafter for those things, and a bit of an artist. Not a fine artist, but still an artist. I'm a wife and a mother. I'm a lot of things. A writer is one of them. Don't shrink away from being who and what you are. You're a package, just like me, and that's fantastic.
So as we close out the year, practice calling yourself a writer. It's okay. You can do it. And keep remembering, the compost is a place to grow your garden of stories, but it doesn't define your garden. And it doesn't define you. Be bold. There's a new year coming and I hope you'll make it a great one.
Jan Fields is a full-time, freelance author and an Institute of Children's Literature Instructor. Would you like to have your own instructor teaching you on a one-on-one basis? Show us a sample of your work here.