One year ago, I took a chance and sent a personal essay to a popular women’s website. The piece wasn’t particularly great, written slapdash on a whim. I only sent it in because I needed to feel like I was doing something other than working on my Master’s thesis and throwing resumes at jobs I would never get. It was one of my low days, when my feet stuck in the mud and my head felt too cluttered. So, I wrote. And then I sent. And within one day, I had been published.
That’s how I became a writer. Is it anti-climactic? I worry sometimes that it is, and in being so casts a shadow on my career. “I fell into it,” isn’t the response people expect when someone says they are a writer. I worry that I haven’t paid my dues — no late nights spent agonizing, no tall pile of rejection letters. When I tell someone I am a writer and they raise their eyebrows in surprise, I feel pride and guilt mingle. Yes, I am a writer. But no, I’m not a tortured artist.
Writing is a field scattered with landmines of self-doubt. Yes, I’m a writer, but am I really a writer? Am I creative enough to wear that badge? Am I suffering enough to be an artist? Is all of this too easy? There is no certifying board ready to hand out prettily printed papers that state unequivocally that the holder has met all requirements and can be considered A Writer. Everyone must decide for themselves what legitimacy means.
For a long time, I used an apologetic tone when I said, “I’m a writer.” With my voice and my eyes I would share my deep fears. “I write, but I’m afraid it’s never good enough. I’m afraid no one is reading. I’m afraid I’m going to fail.” Writing is a solitary and vulnerable act, so I would read the eyes of strangers when I told them I was a writer and seek legitimacy and reassurance into any expression.
One year of sending pitches and writing pieces and seeing my name in print has helped mitigated the sense that none of this is even real. I have deadlines now, and people ask me for advice on starting a career in writing, and strangers follow me on social media. I still have the same fears, but the word “writer” rests more easily on my tongue these days.
Despite the doubts and the questions, I’m proud of being a writer. My heart swells when I’m able to point at something and whisper, “This is something I made. These words are my words.” I may fumble when handed compliments, but I feel at home in my skin when I’m writing. I don’t feel like I have to pretend, as I did when working in an office. There’s enough room for all my quirks and eccentricities. I can be completely and wholly myself now.
And to think, it all began on a low October day.