Make 2020 the Year You Start to Call Yourself a Writer

Ditch the “aspiring” and just write

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I have always wanted to be a writer.

When I was a kid, it was so easy to know what I wanted. I wanted to be a writer, so I did what I thought writers would do — I wrote. I filled notebooks with poems and drafts of short stories and fairy tales. I wanted to write a book — so I plotted and I developed my characters — in my own childish way, following ideas from books I read at the time. I was proud of wanting to become a writer and I just wrote my way into becoming one.

I had poems published in the school newspaper — where I was the editor and I was hassling others to give me their work so we can have it printed out and photocopied at my mum’s workplace. I was dead serious about it and I had no doubt whatsoever.

Then I got into high school, and I quickly realised that I am not the only one who writes short stories and tons of poems — and the possibility of being compared to the girls who all wrote beautiful love poems sounded way too daunting. I didn’t want to compete. Plus, compared to them, I had nothing to write about. They were dating guys and they were cutting their wrists — so it seemed they knew about things like love and loss and life and death. I felt small and worthless and eventually, I stopped writing altogether.

I could never really stop. Even when I wasn’t writing, I still dreamt about words. I still made up stories in my head and I still created my characters — only nothing made it to the paper any more.

But the writer in me kept creeping back up to the surface. At some point I didn’t even try to silence her anymore, I just ignored her babbling.

I started to write again, years later, when writing became my lifeline after a traumatic relationship. Desperately looking for means to deal with my demons, my anxiety, and depression — I found solace in the words on the page. It was a coping mechanism. It was taking my mind off the actual events, made me forget how the world I knew was fucked up, how it was exploding around me. It helped me open the wounds, it helped me heal.

But it was journaling. It was rambling. It was bullshit. I never called it writing. I never believed I could be a Writer.

I didn’t even think that saying “aspiring writer” would have been correct. It was just toning down the word, but for me, the word aspiring was just like the word almost, in the sentence “I almost won the lottery.”

Not too many things happen overnight, but this one for me did.

It started with me falling in love. And the whole feeling of falling in love after years of burying myself under work and other duties was just so overwhelming that I did the only thing I could think of to process my feelings: I wrote.

It was like opening a rusty faucet, the words started trickling first and then quickly washed away the remnant of my self-doubt and inhibitions, to flow with full force. After all these years of not allowing myself to do it, I started to write, I began to publish my articles. I started to write about my feelings, my experiences, my advice to others — I started to get readers, I started to get fans, I started to get encouragement daily.

And my feeling about writing started to change. Becoming part of a community of writers, I felt I arrived somewhere, I began to feel that like-minded spirits and thinkers are making me feel whole, making me feel more myself, making me feel at home.

But did that make me a writer?

Is there a specific point in time and space where the world just stops and you look around in awe and you tell yourself, “I have just become a writer.”?

There has been none for me — it has been happening gradually, it is happening every day, and every minute and every second of every day. It doesn’t happen overnight. I could never say that today I am a writer, as opposed to yesterday when I wasn’t yet.

I am fighting daily with my imposter syndrome, I am pushing back my writer’s block by pushing myself forward. Every day when I feel small, I make myself believe that I am a living, breathing organism, capable to spill words on a page.

What am I if not even a writer?

I am not sure. But I force myself to think backwards. I know one thing for sure: if I stopped writing, I would have even a harder time to call myself a writer, possibly to a point, where I won’t be able to even entertain the thought. The overthinker in me helps sometimes to solve my burning issues.

So if I’m not a writer when I don’t write, that leaves me with one conclusion according to deductive logic:

If I write that makes me a writer.

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. “ — Arthur Conan Doyle

Writing is not only an act, but it’s also a mindset

Writers write. But writers also think as a writer, love as a writer, breathe as a writer. It’s a lot more complex than just the words — it is about how you look at your life, how you process the events around you and those that ever happened to you. It is a continuous improvement of your vocabulary, of your style, of your writing voice. And it is a continuous improvement of your self.

When I started to write, finally after all those years of silence, I hesitated to call myself a writer. I was trying to tie it to accomplishments and milestones. If I have written 50 pieces, then I can call myself a writer. If I get published here or there. If I get x number of followers. If… And the list was endless. Everyone else was already calling me a writer when I realised that I need to shift my perspective and let go of my fears and inhibitions for good.

In 2020, I have one single resolution that I would like to keep. I want to call myself a writer — everywhere I go. Without second thoughts, without doubt, without looking to others for approval or external validation.

This means that I have to focus on what makes me a writer, instead of trying to find ways to explain why I am not one. It is about finding and keeping a writer’s mindset.

So how can you keep yourself in a writer mindset?

Just write

It sounds so very obvious, right? Writers write. And more importantly, writers write all the time.

Writing isn’t limited to the typing or the scribbling of words. It starts way before that and ends long after that. It starts with the mindset, where you notice everything around you, where the world becomes your playground and your stage, and everything in your past, present and future, every little thing your mind can make up becomes a source of inspiration, a story to tell. It continues with writing. Writing shit. Writing really terrible stuff. Writing for the bin more than anything else. It consists of hitting the delete button way more than even coming close to consider the publish button or the print button. It means to be your own biggest fan and your own biggest critique at the same time, fighting a bloody battle inside your mind, where chapters and paragraphs get sacrifices for the greater good during the editing phase.

So just write. Deal with it. Get it together, and don’t mind the time that seems wasted — because there is wasted time, there are droughts, there are periods where you really would be better off with Netflix and/or chill. Get over it. Keep at it. It will pass.

Be aware and humble

Being a writer is not a destination, it’s a journey full of ups and downs and learnings. You need to be aware and you need to be humble. Aware of your own skills, aware of the permanent need for improvement, aware of time and space around you. You need to be humble to be able to grow, to be able to create real value — both for yourself and for anyone who will ever read you. To be able to do it properly you need writing skills, you need to bare your soul, you need to make yourself vulnerable, you need to open yourself up for criticism, you need the willingness to learn and improve. And write. A lot.

Build up the confidence

You need to be confident about the possibility that writing is your skill, it is your life, it is your job, your vocation. You need to believe that you are able. You need to believe that while talent is important, it is not the only thing that brings success. Persistence, consistency, and discipline weigh in the equation as well. This is a comforting thought, as talent is subjective, being at the right time and right place and finding your audience can be subjective, but working hard is objective. It’s either you do it or you don’t. And if you do, there will always be a payoff.

Work on your patience

It would be lovely to have it all at once. I want it all. For yesterday. But know it, that getting everything without working for it is far less satisfying than something you need to give sweat and blood for.

But patience is necessary. First of all, with the process, as the writing and editing process doesn’t have a shortcut, you need to go all the way, sometimes a struggle, other times going with the flow. Patience is also necessary with finding, defining, and polishing our voice, and finding that audience that appreciates it. As you will not be loved by everyone, especially if you start to get good at what you do. Mediocrity flies under the radar, but if you stand out, you will get haters. Be a bigger person. Because you are.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else — you have no idea what path they have been down to get to where they are today. You don’t know what life experiences broke them, lifted them and shaped them. Just because it looks easy from the outside, you have no idea about what’s going on below the surface. And you shouldn’t, because you shouldn’t care.

All you need to care about is your own journey, at your own pace.

Use your past successes to move toward the desired future

Look back on your past achievements for encouragement, make every one of them count. Take note of your victories and celebrate them. Someone made a comment that made your heart soar, someone called you a writer when you didn’t even think of it, you reached a milestone that you had never thought would be possible. Note them, mark them, cherish them.

Don’t let your imposter syndrome make you believe that what you have done before is not sustainable. Don’t let it discourage you when you see yourself succeed.

Trust the process.

Make use of the past to improve your present and allow yourself to paint yourself a future that you really really really want. Will it manifest by itself? Hell no. But at least you know what you are working for.

Dream big and set realistic goals, that are just out of reach. Goals that are challenging you today a tiny bit more than yesterday.

Learn from the others

The best thing about being digitally connected is that we have access to so much information online that makes it very easy to learn from the best. If you just search Medium for how to write well, what to watch out for, or even if you just follow writers, you will come across invaluable advice — tons of it. I found that writers are thrilled to write about writing, helping others in the process. If you want to improve your writing, there is no better time than our time — it’s all a click away, helpful articles, tutorials, e-books, online courses, downloadables — you name it. You can learn from the best — to become the best.

But you can also learn from the worst. Let’s face it. No matter how supportive the writers’ community and how much we love each other, not all writers are created equal. Just look around and see, there is a whole universe of writers with articles, essays and books out there — with very poor quality. They are here to teach you.

The first thing to learn from them, no matter how bad they are, they write.

Second, they call themselves writers, spilling out hundreds of articles and publishing thousands of pages of books. Maybe of terrible quality, but still. They write and they publish, they do exactly what you fear to do, for lack of confidence or faith. If they can do it, so can you, right?

Third, use them as a contrast. Contrast that shows you the exact way where you don’t want to go, what you don’t want to become. Every bad novel and every bad article offer a huge possibility to learn — to point you in a direction where you want to go, away from what you want to avoid by all means.

You already have everything in you to start and everything to help you along your own journey. All you need to do is just to embrace it: you are a writer. And write.

Make 2020 the year when you start calling yourself finally a writer because you are one! And don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Especially not yourself.

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Writer. Dreamer. Hopeless romantic. Newsletter: zita.substack.com Email me: zitafontaine (at) gmail

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