Who Am I To…Write?

Unlike many of my writer friends, I didn’t major in English or decide I was going to be a writer at an early age. I’ve never taken a writing course, although I probably should. To date, my writing is limited to graduate thesis’, literature reviews, white papers, and grant proposals. While I do have short stories that have been published, I still feel like the odd man out.

Who am I to call myself writer? Sure, I can string two sentences together, but does that make my writing worthy of publication? Will readers think it’s junk? Will my author friends secretly laugh?

I often find myself wondering if I can make it as a writer. Now, I don’t mean “make it” in the sense of being able to support myself with my writing (although one can hope), but rather, will my stories be liked by my readers and peers. And I’ll bet I’m not the only one who feels this way (oh, please don’t let me be the only one!).

So how do we overcome our self-doubt?

For me, I find comfort in success stories from unlikely authors. Take John Grisham, for example. He was a practicing attorney for almost a decade and as far as I can tell, he didn’t set out to be a writer either. It wasn’t until he heard a story about a little girl that prompted him to write his first novel (A Time to Kill). And what about Kathy Reichs? She didn’t major in English either, but through her experience as a forensic anthropologist, she was able to expose us to a whole new methodology of crime solving – not to mention her sweet deal as executive producer on Bones, which is based on her series of books.

It was those stories that inspired me to pursue my secret passion to become a writer. Again, I had no background in writing, but I knew I was onto something back in graduate school – a paper discussing chaos theory, based on an article written by my professor. Now, I didn’t read the aforementioned article, but I still managed an A. That was my epiphany – only a writer can bulls#*t their way to an A. Right?

It took a few years for me to feel comfortable submitting any of my short stories for publication. My first attempts at writing novels don’t even occupy a shelf in my virtual files – they were trash and thus ended up where they belonged, in the recycling bin. But with every book I didn’t finish, I realized my writing only got better. Today, I don’t cringe when I go back and read pages written from the day before. Of course, it still has to be edited, but nothing that can’t be fixed.

One of the major advantages to ROW80 is that I can customize my goals to ensure I continue to grow as a writer. The great Stephen King said, in order to be a good writer, you have to write (and read) everyday. So in order for me to succeed, I know I have to write everyday and my goals are reflective of that.

Even if I don’t accomplish all of my intended goals, I know that just by setting aside time to write everyday, I can build my self-confidence enough to be able to stand by my writing – even if no one else thinks I can.

~*~

Claudia Lefeve

17 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing, Kait. Even though I dreamed of being a writer, I didn’t major in English either. Psychology was my choice, and I went on to a three-decade career as a social worker. Writing case notes and reports to the juvenile court were the extent of my writing. Oh, and the occasional opportunity to write newsletters for the agency for which I worked.

    I wrote my five published novels after retiring. During that process, I have learned a few things. Like how much there is to learn…still.

    Growing is a great goal. Reading and writing everyday is part of that. Thanks for the opportunity!

    1. I think it is Claudia not Kait. Anyways, how does it feel being a Psychologist? I always thought they are highly intellectual people. Is that true?

  2. Nice post, Claudia!

    When I first started writing with the intention of being published, about 10 years ago, I was a college dropout (physics major, was in prestigious college for 5 years), and a housewife. I had never even taken a college ENGLISH class (tested out). But I had been writing since I was, like, five years old. I never had thought of it seriously as a career path. “Real” people became doctors and lawyers and stuff like that, right? But after 5 years of college, swapping majors now and then, really trying to figure out what I wanted to be, I realized that every day i was more excited to run home and write until 4 AM than I was to study to become… whatever. I had to really struggle with every one else’s expectations of me (But Melly, you’re so SMART! You LOVE physics…). Yes, I loved physics, but I liked to write about what could happen BECAUSE of physics than I was to sit and look at numbers all day.

    Writing classes will get you no where on their own. I took a couple free online writing classes, and while they were nice, especially to meet new people, it was basically repetition of things I already knew. It’s WRITING that will make you a writer, not doling out $$ for classes, not having an expensive desk, or a computer, or even a drinking habit😉. I’ve been writing seriously for ten years, and my career is finally unfolding in front of me. I can see the path, I just need to follow it (mind you it probably won’t take everyone ten years; I got married and had a child and had lots and lots of “life” happening in those years!).

    If you want to be a writer, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says, not even a shiny piece of paper. Put in the hours, and DO IT. Diplomas don’t make writers. Many hours of writing does.🙂

    Good luck!

    Melanie

  3. Thank you for all your wonderful comments. I am happy to hear that I’m not alone🙂

    And Melanie, you shouldn’t have mentioned your love of physics…I may pick your brain for my current WIP. I almost FAILED physics (and my dad was my teacher!), but of course I just had to tackle a subject that interests me, but lack in understanding.

  4. OMG, I think this everyday. John Grisham is my touchstone. I’m a CPA and CPAs are numbers people not writerly people…or so I think in my more dismal moods. Great article, Claudia.

  5. Awesome post, Claudia. Makes me think about that saying: Writers are born, not made. I just know that I frequently find myself fighting my training as an English major when I write. High tea with Jane Austen, no problem. Discuss whether Milton’s treatment of Eve in Paradise Lost displayed proto-feminist sympathies? On it. Write like people actually talk in interesting situations? Uh-oh. It’s taken a lot of reading and first drafts to begin the road to being a writer. So no, you’re definitely not alone!

  6. “Writers will come out of almost any department but the English department…Well that’s not the purpose of an English department to turn out creative writers. It’s to turn out literary historians, cultivated people and people who will in turn teach people the wonders of their language and their literature. But one thing an English department will do is teach you good taste too soon.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

    “I believe we all come into life as writers.” ~ Julia Cameron

    1. Thank your for posting those quotes, Kathy. I had heard the Vonnegut one once and it sprang to mind as I read Claire’s post (preparing myself for January 2nd to roll around).

  7. Yes, love this. I’ve been ‘writing’ since 3 years old, and i told my mom I was going to be “a wordsmith” haha. First story-story (longer than a page) was third grade, first novel (a 300 page wordpad tome of teenage drama in a fantasy world) in sixth. Between then and now (I’m 23) I’ve started so so so many different novels and stories. Some never get past the shiny-idea stage and some haven even gotten finished.

    But the things I never finished, the things I left off half-way through, or got bored of…those were the stories that really taught me stuff!

    Still, I’m learning myself with each piece I write. And I’m with you: I write to please people–I want someone to go “Ohmygawd, you gotta read -insert-awesome-book-of-mine-here” and…well, yeah! I want people to like me and be excited for my next new story! It’s totally worth the work, the sweat, the tears. There may be some days when it’s like “ohgod I have to WRITE -headdesk- but man…when I’m on, I love it🙂

  8. Awesome post. I’m one of those who hasn’t been writing all my life. Unless you want to count business proposals,and school papers, etc. I didn’t start actually pursuing writing until 4 years ago at the age of 48. Late bloomer. I do know that by writing everyday, I am learning and improving. So happy to know we aren’t alone in our writing journeys.

  9. Kathy – I knew there was a reason I loved Kurt Vonnegut.

    Claire and Vikki – thanks for the words of encouragement!

    Kodilynn – I think I’ve definitely found my “style” and I don’t think I would have gotten to this point until I had something to compare it to (i.e. my earlier bad works)

    Robin – Never too late!🙂

    And thanks again for your supportive comments!

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  11. You get to decide what and who you are. Answering the question of ‘who am I’ is an ongoing process, ever changing. Keep writing if that is what you are called to do. Don’t give up. Keep moving forward toward your dreams.

  12. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. Speaking of John Grisham … “A Time to Kill” was rejected 30 times. But this didn’t stop him. The book became a best seller and thought provoking movie. In fact, it’s one of my favorite movies. I watched it yesterday.

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