I am not a well published writer. I've had one short story published recently, a few pieces published years back, & lots of lovely rejection letters to attest to my continuing to submit my writing. Outside of the possible publications, I have several short stories that just need a bit of polish before I send them out, other short stories that are bare bones, a novel that is "finished" but getting a massive overhaul, another "finished" novel that is set aside, three other novel starts, two barely formed novel ideas that I have jotted down notes and have done a bit of research on, a cluster of memoir vignettes, and article ideas (like this one) that I want to work on when I have time.
I feel like I have been a writer my whole life. I was “writing” stories before I could write. As soon as I could form sentences, my mom told me that I was making up stories. When I was a bit more cohesive with my ideas, I would dictate these stories to my mom and she would write them down for me.* (They were terrible, but she was very tolerant.) Even though I have dyslexia, writing was a huge goal of mine so, after a lot of struggle and with a mom who would not tolerate a teacher calling me slow and stupid and even though we moved to Venezuela in the middle of all that**, I learned to write.
All of this, despite my lack of published work, says in my mind that yes, I am a writer.
And yet… And yet recently at my writers’ group I had someone say that I wasn’t a “real” writer; that I wasn’t serious about my writing. For a couple of days, I believed them. The evidence? I have goals other than writing, I don’t have a consistent writing schedule***, and I don’t support myself with my writing.
There was another writer there who writes every morning for 2 hours, supports themself with their writing, and their entire life is about their writing. They didn’t agree with the person who said I wasn’t a real writer, but they didn’t dispute them either. I, on the other hand, got very defensive.
After a couple of days of self doubt I thought, why do I care what this other person has to say? By their own admission, they have never been published and rarely write. Upon reflection, I believe that they were trying to find common ground with me and didn’t realize how hurtful their words were. But, let’s be honest, it’s not about them, it’s about me. I doubt myself as a writer. Therefore, if anyone says anything that reflects that doubt, no matter how deeply I’ve buried it, it comes rising to the surface like some monolith of my personal insecurity. I feel like an imposter.
I wish, at this point, I could say, “and this is how I destroyed my feelings of being an imposter.” But I can’t… because I still feel like an impostor… sort of. I write because I’m a writer, and it doesn’t matter if I’m published or not. Kafka was never published in his lifetime. Laura Ingalls Wilder was 44 (my current age) when she became a columnist and didn’t publish her first novel until she was 64, and the Marquis de Sade was 47 when he published his very controversial novel Justine. The list goes on and on… Here’s a article about 10 Great Literary Late Bloomers and here’s the website dedicated to Late Bloomers called Bloom. This should make me feel better, right?
But then my thoughts spiral into, maybe I’m just a really crappy writer. Who am I to be giving other writers advice? How do I dare to run a writing group and an open mic? I wonder why I even bother writing since all the great things have already
Self-doubt sucks. So, dear reader, I pose this question to you: What do you do when self-doubt comes creeping around?
*All of the stories that my mom transcribed for me, along with about two thirds of my earlier writing, was lost in the basement flood of 1995. That was a terrible year.
**I have started writing about that. So meta!
***I’ve never been good at the, “get up first thing and write every day”, philosophy since I am not at all a morning person.