“You’re a what?”
Naturopathic medicine in the 1990s was a peculiar occupation. Few people knew what I did unless I explained. With the rise of alternative healthcare in the last decade, more people are aware of it and have strong opinions regarding the science. Back then, I spent more time writing and educating than I did meeting with clients.
After I left the health field to be a full-time mom, like many working women who give up their careers, I lost what little identity I possessed. When I started my magazine in 1998, it was easy to say, “I am an editor.” I never had to explain.
Perhaps it was the authority or prestige that comes with the title of editor that made me comfortable. Or maybe if I called myself a writer, my seventh-grade teacher would show up and publicly remind me I still didn’t know what I was doing. In any case, it would be almost a decade before I finally acknowledged I’m a writer.
As a lover of words and blank pages, “I am a writer” might be one of the most powerful phrases I have ever uttered. I don’t recall the exact events that stirred my heart, but I remember the moment. And I know the profound changes that followed. Letting those words slip from my lips transformed me.
For every woman who knows she was born to write, I suspect there are a dozen who are afraid to embrace the call. Some were shamed by a teacher, like me, and lost the confidence to create. Others were discouraged by someone dear to them who didn’t appreciate the fine art of weaving words to create a tapestry of insight. Then there are those who don’t feel their writing is worthy of anyone’s time.
Fears rise from the strangest places to stop us from pursuing our dreams. Some are justified and deserve consideration. But the worries that tell us we aren’t good enough, or smart enough, or have something to say, need to be silenced.
Each of us have lessons learned and stories to tell. The oral tradition of sharing wisdom and history has been with us since the dawn of time. It’s a tradition that needs to continue. As writers, we leave our legacy on paper.
If I could go back and whisper something in the ear of my younger self, it would be this. . .
Don’t be afraid: Use your voice. Express an opinion. Encourage. Inspire.
What you think has value. What you write makes a difference – profoundly – even if it doesn’t feel like it. Lives will be changed by your words in ways you never imagined. Choose your words wisely, but make the brave choice to share them.
Just because you don’t write perfectly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write at all. Writing “perfectly” is a myth. Not even the official style guides agree what “perfect writing” looks like.
You can learn and master writing skills. It simply takes time, practice, passion, and persistence. If you can’t find a mentor to help you, become the mentor you need. Read everything you can get your hands on, learn from the greats, seek ways to improve, but allow yourself grace to be where you are.
Success takes time. You will do more things wrong than you’ll get right. Don’t fret about it. There is beauty in the struggle. There is wisdom to be learned and knowledge to be gained.
You are a writer. You know it. Embrace who you are. Start now.
Today, so much in my life has changed, yet so little. Twenty-five years later people still look at me and say, “You’re a what?” These days I laugh because I enthusiastically love what I do. If they don’t understand the fancy terms, I simply say, “I’m a writer who teaches other writers to write.” The conversation that follows is usually fun and positive and no one quacks.
My wish is that it doesn’t take you a decade, or a week, or even the rest of the afternoon to be able to confidently proclaim “I am a writer.” With a deep breath, and firm resolve, you can start your journey as a writer now. In this moment. You simply need to embrace what you already know.
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