Q: Don’t you know you’re a good writer?
A: [incoherent mumbles]
Full disclosure—today’s Frequent Question doesn’t come from a reader. But it’s definitely a frequent question: Mine.
I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve worked with start out thinking they can’t write. And again and again, I find myself asking them some version of the question above.
Their answer, sadly, is usually some variation of No. Nobody ever told me. I had no idea. Are you really sure? You’re not just saying that?
One of my challenge writers posted a beautiful piece to our Facebook group—an insightful essay about creativity and how it takes many bad ideas to generate one good one. Brené Brown would have been proud to write that. So would Seth Godin.
And then in the last paragraph, she called herself a “wannabe writer.” I wanted to cry.
Another of my writers called herself “a non-writing aspiring writer.” Hard to imagine how that could be true since the “non-writing” writer wrote those words in a writing assignment!
It’s interesting, this need people have to deny what they are doing while they’re doing it.
I mean, if I took violin lessons I wouldn’t call myself a violin player the first time I picked up the bow. But I wouldn’t call myself a “wannabe” violin player either. No matter how squeaky my “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” might be (memories of that 3rd grade Christmas concert still sting), I was playing the damn violin. And if I’d kept at it, I bet I’d have gotten better at it.
The writing you do today may not be as good as the writing you do two weeks—or two years—from now. Or it may be every bit as good. We all have occasional flashes of brilliance balanced my much more frequent flashes of mediocrity. That’s the way creativity works.
But you don’t need someone to anoint a writer. It’s a verb. You want to be a writer? Write.
Everyone wonders: Am I a good writer?
Look, I don’t mean to give you more sticks to beat yourself with. So you’ve wondered if you’re a good writer. Who hasn’t? But please, please, please don’t let that stop you from writing.
Every time you make words come out of your fingers—on a keyboard or with pen and paper—you are writing. And it’s a verb—remember? If you write, that makes you a writer.
Self-confidence deserts everyone from time to time. As Elizabeth Gilbert writes in Big Magic:
“Creativity cannot take a single step forward without fear marching right alongside it.”
If you haven’t read that book, go buy it and spend just 15 minutes reading it right now.
Because you need to hear things like this:
“You do not need anybody’s permission to live a creative life.”
Of course, as I see it that’s not 100% accurate. You do need permission from one person: Yourself.
And that’s one of the main emotional issues we tackle in Writing Unbound. Getting out of our own way, giving ourselves permission to use and develop the talents we have. Claiming the title of “writer” because—say it with me: It’s a verb.
Therefore we are writers.
So here’s the first thing I tell the people in Writing Unbound: Whenever you start to write something, put these words at the top of the page:
I AM A WRITER.
Eventually you’ll believe it. And then you get to modify that sentence:
I AM A GOOD WRITER.
Just keep writing every day. Don’t let anyone stop you.
Time to kick your writing skills up a level? Join me for my popular Writing Unbound program this October. A serious commitment, for people serious about change.