For some writers the very act of calling themselves a writer feels like an accomplishment.
For others it feels like an act of defiance.
Others still can’t bring themselves to acknowledge their talent and how far their hard work has gotten them.
I recently watched an episode of The Comedians (it’s not a new show, but it’s streaming on Hulu). In it the ill-fitted pair of Josh Gad and Billy Crystal often find themselves butting heads because they are in different phases of their acting career.
In one scene, Gad gives Crystal a hard time for still wanting to impress people and for attempting to reach for more recognition and fame. Gad says, “You know that Scorsese movie I didn’t get? Well, I still didn’t get it.” Crystal reminds Gad that he was Olaf in Frozen and that he was also in The Book of Mormon, which were both huge successes. He reminds him that he is still trying to get the next thing even after accomplishing those things at such a young age. He then says the line that left me staggering: “What makes you think that ever goes away?”
When we think about our writing life, what do we want it to look like? Why are we doing this writing thing? Do we just love writing and want our words on the page? Do we want it to be a career? Do we want to be hugely successful?
And once we accomplish those goals, are we satisfied? Maybe. Or maybe not.
It might be tempting to look at what seems like a never-ending ladder and want to give up.
It might also be tempting to climb the ladder halfway and look back to watch the people below you struggling.
Regardless of where we are on the ladder (or–let’s be real–on our journey to find the ladder), it’s time to embrace it and own our struggle.
They call it lots of things: imposter syndrome, the inner critic. Many famous writers still struggle with this notion and they do remember how hard they worked to get as far as they have.
But when you are just starting out, knowing this can be daunting. You might ask what’s the point? But don’t do that to yourself. Don’t give up!
Here are some ideas on how to work through this:
Discover Your Origin Story
We are big on superpowers here at DIYMFA, so what are yours? If you imagined yourself as a comic book character, what would your origin story be? How did you discover your superpower and what can you do with it? Have fun with this one. Objectively, this is the best way to introduce yourself to where you are in your journey and work backwards to see how far you’ve come. Or conversely, start at the beginning and see all the twists and turns that got you here. Either way, it can be a huge boost just knowing where you are on the map, even if it feels like you are a tiny blip. You deserve to be on the map, so put yourself there.
Own Your Struggles and Celebrate Your Triumphs
This stuff is hard. They say if it wasn’t, everyone would do it. If it was easy, why do they give out awards for it? Guess what: you are working hard at a very difficult medium that some people are terrified to attempt. Think about it. As you progress, certain things about writing that once seemed insurmountable might not seem so difficult anymore. That’s a big deal. If you think of your goal-reaching as a mountain (or ladder) you are climbing, don’t imagine yourself at the very bottom. You are probably grizzled with skinned knees from all the climbing you’ve done already–own that!
And as a member of the writing community, it’s not just enough to further yourself along. If you can somehow help others in their struggle, that’s also something to be proud of.
Accept Where You Are and Keep Going!
Think about it. “It never goes away.” That realization can be painful, but it can also be freeing. It might help to make a list of your future goals and desired accomplishments. Not just stuff you want to do, but the things you think that will “make it go away.”
Once you’ve figured out what you want that you don’t have, think to the future. Tell yourself you already have those things even if you don’t have the “proof” for your inner critic. Start with “I am…” and consider your future self.
Also, consider this: how close are you to your goals right now? How far have you come from who you used to be? What tiny thing needs to change so you can keep going? Start today!
Once you do all of these things you will realize your anxiety and angst (which are totally normal!) revolve around grappling with your writer identity and owning who you already are. Give yourself a break. It’s rough enough out there.
Amy Ayres is the Tech Fairy at DIYMFA. When she is not in her office writing about terraformed planets, multiple personalities, and Irish folklore, she is hanging with her awesome tech-hubby, stepson, and RubyCat. Visit amymarieayres.com where you can find out more about her private writer’s group Fill the Blank Page. You can sign up for her Newsletter where she sends out motivational tips for new writers and her special brand of humor. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.