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“I Am Not a Writer,” and Other Stories I’ve Told Myself

A journey to creative expression and trusting my voice as a compiler of words.

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Photo Credit: Nan Liu

I’m not a writer, I believed. I didn’t have anything important to say…and even if I did, I didn’t know how to craft it into a story. I dipped my toe into crafting short stories or blogging, allowing my creativity to seep onto the page – but at the time I didn’t believe I was particularly creative, and I didn’t know what my point actually was. I couldn’t express myself how I wanted and would usually end up quitting before I was even finished with what I was writing.

Perhaps it was easier to quit midway than write something bad or “fail”.

And so, instead of channeling my written word onto the computer, I would pour it out into a journal. Sometimes I even blogged, though this was sporadic and often without a red thread. I would devour books and share insights with friends or family, occasionally writing some ideas or notes into Google Keep, only to let the inspiration fade out and return with the reminder that, “I am not a writer.”

I had a good friend growing up who knew she was a writer. Ever since we were 10 years old, she would write. She was so convinced of herself as a writer that, by contrast, I knew she was a writer, not I. (Quick site note, to be fair, she is an exceptional writer who is now a widely recognized and publicized journalist in the world of todays’ public & economic affairs. I am massively proud of her and see just how hard she worked to hone her craft, even from such a young age!)

In New York City, I lived for a short time in a sublet in the East Village. My roommate was an incredibly funny and talented comedic writer. He would wake up each morning, finish his morning routine, and sit down to write at the dining room table for hours every day. Having only ever worked as a full-time employee, I couldn’t understand how he could possibly have the discipline to sit down and write, when all I wanted to do when not in the office was lounge around watching TV or talking on the phone.

He taught me in those 1-2 months that we lived together that writing is a craft and it takes commitment to make it happen. It is not simply a gift that arrives at your door to be seized upon (though it is, most definitely, that as well).

Fast forward to my early years in Berlin, I once again dipped my toe into the craft of writing and signed up for a writing workshop. I wrote a few articles, brought them in for the group to discuss and critique, and felt so uncomfortable and out of my depth that I completely lost my momentum. So great was my anxiety at having my writing judged before I felt prepared to handle it, I felt like the ideas literally left my brain and there was nothing left to put on paper.

I listened to my peers (who later became good friends) share daring stories, testing out new mediums and styles of writing, and I knew, in my heart, they were the writers. After our writing workshop ended, they continued honing their craft to write novels, one of whom went on to complete an advanced degree at a very-hard-to-get-into writing program and the other who has just published her second young adult fiction novel!

In essence, I was surrounded by talented writers and artists and because I so respected the work they did, I couldn’t even see the creator in myself.

It wasn’t until I started my own business that I began to realize the value of my own writing. I recognized that I had the ability to pull together thoughts and ideas in a clear, compelling, and oftentimes even humorous way. Even though I was terrified of putting my words out there into the world, I began to write with more regularity and ease.

That’s not to say my writing was (or is) seamless, there are always glitches in the system, but I began to publish and get feedback, and realize that I wasn’t the only one feeling afraid of writing and publishing all those years… the world is full of people who are too afraid to hit “Publish”.

As I continue to hone my craft, for I am not as disciplined as many who came before me, I’d like to give credit where credit is due to the (in my mind) masters of creativity and getting it done that had a huge influence on my own creative process these last few years.

The most influential book in my creative (and entrepreneurial) process – hell, perhaps even in my life, is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. This book completely changed the way I view creativity and writing. With a continuous and subtle nudge of “stop distracting yourself, sit down and write, every damn day” Steven’s book is short enough to give you no excuses not to sit down and get to work, and deep enough to completely change how you get your work done.

Couple that with Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic which helps you realize that not all ideas are uniquely created in your mind, but that there may be a more universal, mystical presence involved which gives you the opportunity to jump on a new idea – or to let it pass you by and find a new owner. This belief allows you to be a vessel for creativity to come through you, rather than putting the pressure on the creator to come up with “a great idea”.

And most recently, I’ve dived into Seth Godin’s recently published The Practice, which reinforces a mixture of Pressfield’s ideas as well as some hints of Michael A. Singer’s work The Untethered Soul, to convince you that having your own regular practice is the only way to produce meaningful work. And in Godin’s mind, it is not simply about creating for the sake of it, because you can’t not do it, but also for the sake of shipping, (i.e. bringing it to the public arena).

Today, I can proudly say today that I am, indeed, a writer and creator. I may not be everyone’s taste, my ideas may not always be fully baked through, and I may not have the finesse or vigor of some of the greatest writers who’s writing I devour with ease, but I have my own unique voice, ideas, and expression that helps me synthesize my view on the world and pull together ideas and insights that might otherwise evade me.

I write when inspired, but I also write when I tell myself it’s time to sit down and write. Each day my prose gets stronger, my ideas more well-formed, my fear of doing the work minimized, and I find the joy and inspiration of feeling the words tumble out of me and onto the page.

This is my writer’s journey, my healing, and one of my greatest joys.

In essence, I write for me, more than for you.

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