Even though I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, sometimes professionally and sometimes simply for the fun of it, I still ask myself all the time, “Am I a writer?” And I think when I ask myself this, I’m really saying, “but am I a good writer?” and “am I a real writer?” Questions to which I do not – and may never – have the answers.
I have a voice, yes, and I have a good grasp of grammar and sentence structure. I can write technical, dry material, and also more engaging, informal content. I’ve written web copy and press releases to explain the importance of clinical trials, and I’ve written about my opinions and experiences for fun online outlets (someone paid 25 year-old me to write a lot about online dating and weird fitness trends). But still, am I a writer?
The problem with this question is that, to me, it feels so subjective. Do I write? Yes, objectively, I put words on a page. What I get hung up on is, “well, would anyone actually pay me to do this? Or even like what I’m writing?” Or really, “if writing isn’t ALL I do, am I still a writer?”
I recently chose to leave my job at a healthcare PR and communications agency, and although my entire job consisted of being able to nail down the right words, I often struggled with calling myself a writer or describing myself succinctly outside of my PR title. I led a team of communicators to drive communications strategies for our clients at a large company, where they sat in communications roles. Sure sounds like I wrote, right? I wrote emails and annual plans and internal communications and implementation guides and web content on advances being made in various areas of healthcare. But I did a lot of other stuff too that made me wonder if I was actually a writer. If no one but my team members and clients knew that I wrote those things, if my name was never on the final product, and nothing I wrote was in my voice, was I writer? Over time, I kept asking myself this, and it was like I also forgot I wrote those things, and that I could write other things. And I started to doubt I still had the writing chops I once prided myself on.
As I’ve thought about this question over the past few weeks, I’ve realized that a lot of this has come from imposter syndrome (hi, yes, this probably was obvious to you, dear reader, from the jump) and a place of self doubt. I don’t know that I’ll ever feel wildly confident in calling myself a writer (even if I published the next great American novel, I might still be questioning my status), but if my main concern with calling myself a writer is that I haven’t put my stamp on enough writing, I guess this is as good a place to start as any. So here I am, writing, and…being a writer.
Have you ever been hesitant to claim on a title for yourself? Writer, poet, photographer, sculptor, general creative person?