“I heard you’re a writer.”

Her five, soft-spoken words stopped me in my tracks. I looked down a full twelve inches and caught a sparkle of awe in her smiling eyes.

“Who told you that?” I questioned, an airy laugh of surprise escaping from my lips.

“My mom,” she answered, still smiling. Still waiting for a response.

Lockers opened and slammed all around us. Kids buzzed this way and that, filling the air with after-school chatter.

“I do like to write,” I finally replied. My face flushed as I saw the large arc I had tiptoed around to successfully avoid admission.

She’s a ten-year-old girl, I thought to myself. Why can’t you just say it?

But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to say the words, “Yes, I am. I am a writer.”

Authors Ann Kroeker and Charity S. Craig address this struggle in their new book, On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts (Masters in Fine Living Series). In fact, the entire first chapter is devoted to the inner conflict a person often experiences with claiming their identity as a writer.

The authors take turns sharing their own journeys toward owning the title, “Writer.” Reading their stories made me smile and nod in agreement, as I could definitely relate to aspects of each.

Ann begins by comparing a runner’s identity to that of a writer. “What makes a runner a runner?” she asks. “What criteria apply here? Is it about speed? Giftedness? Goals?”

Similar questions could be asked of a writer’s identity, Ann points out:

I’d like to know the same about writing. What makes a writer a writer? Is it about giftedness? Goals? Is it about output or a byline? If measured by output, does daily blogging count? Are you considered a writer only if you are published, even if you’ve turned out dozens of unpublished poems and essays? To be an official writer, does someone have to pay you for your work?

 

All valid questions, in my opinion — many of which I’ve wrestled with myself.

The same question marks have punctuated Charity Craig’s writing life:

What is required to call oneself a writer? Is it enough simply to put down words? Does a publishing credit or two, or a book in print allow us to claim this title?

 

Charity admits, “I lived a writing life long before I ever called myself a writer.” In fact, she only verbally claimed the identity after she had worked as a newspaper staff writer, had quit her job to write full-time, and had been published on numerous occasions.

Though my writing life hasn’t been as successful as hers, I can relate. I remember the rush of my first online article acceptance, accompanied by the complete shock that someone else would deem my feeble words worthy to be read. The compliment bolstered my courage, and I submitted another, then another.

Over the course of the next two years, I had over 40 articles published in 20 different publications, both online and in print. After my first e-book was released, I decided to make an addition to the bio section of my Twitter and LinkedIn profiles: Freelance Writer. Even as I typed the words, butterflies in my stomach broke free from their cocoons.

Though a minor change, it felt like a big step toward owning my identity as a writer. But true to writer form, it was easier to silently paste the words to a screen than it was to speak them out loud. Even to a ten-year-old girl.

The sweet, smiling 4th grader who heard I was a writer pressed on with her enquiry: “Do you illustrate your own books?”

My smile broadened. “No, I haven’t illustrated any yet. But I do like to draw!”

“I like to draw, too,” and her smile widened to match my own. “What sort of things do you write?” she continued.

By then she had followed me out of the school building to the edge of the parking lot. “Oh, well … I wrote a very short book about grief,” I explained. It felt weird to say that to a ten-year-old. “And I write articles for different websites. And I have a blog.”

I sound pathetic, I thought.

I stood there next to my minivan, shivering in a winter jacket as the frigid wind whipped hair across my face. Wistful admiration shone in her eyes as she looked up at me and declared:

“You look like a writer.”

 

***

What’s your story? Have you wrestled with similar struggles? If so, how have you overcome them to claim your identity as a writer?

You can follow authors Ann Kroeker and Charity S. Craig here:

Ann’s site: http://annkroeker.com/

Ann Kroeker on Twitter: @annkroeker

Charity’s site: http://charitysingletoncraig.com/

Charity S. Craig on Twitter: @charityscraig

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.

35 thoughts on “on claiming identity as a writer

  1. Kate – What a wonderful story. Children have a way of getting straight to the point, don’t they! I love that her question both revealed your continued insecurity with calling yourself a writer, yet by the end, also bolstered you. You look like a writer! And if not your physical appearance, they your life. You are living a writing life; you doing the work. You are a writer!

    Thanks so much for engaging so richly with our book. Our hope all along has been encouraging other writers who are on this journey with us. Thanks for letting us join you and including us here in your writing space.

    • Thank you, Charity, for all the time and effort you have put forth to make this resource a reality! It has been very thought-provoking to me already, in a great way! Looking forward to the rest .. 🙂

  2. That ten-year-old girl forced you to come face to face with an identity you weren’t sure you were prepared to embrace; yet, as you noted from Charity’s experience, you could have called yourself a writer long before you met that girl. I’m so glad you reflected on this and wrote it up. You are a writer (and you look like one, too!).

    This process of writing through the book, should you choose to continue, is rich for Charity and me as we join you here, but I suspect it will be rich for you, as well, to chronicle your journey and share it with your readers. You may inspire others as they consider their own identity as a writer and what it looks like now and in the future.

    I’m so glad we’ve met, and I’m so glad you’re finding some connections as you read On Being a Writer!

    • Thank you, Ann! I’m so grateful for your genuine encouragement. I have indeed gleaned much from the book already, and look forward to the coming chapters! It has already been a rich resource, and I look forward to considering ways in which I can use what I’ve read to encourage others in their writing journeys, as well. Thank you again for writing it, and for engaging with me as you have!

  3. I just had a similar conversation with myself as I shared my first piece as a contributor at an online magazine. I was scared to share it and scared to say it. When someone responded to the post I breathed a sigh of relief thinking okay at least she didn’t publicly shame me by calling me out for calling myself a writer. I consider myself a baby writer and I struggle to own the title. It’s great to hear I’m not alone in this, that even more experienced writers have similar thoughts. I’m taking brave steps every day to claim the title, to feel it and say it..to believe it…for me. I love your story Kate. I love the practical innocence and no no nonsense faith of little people, especially girls that age.

    • I always love seeing your name appear in my comments section, Lisha! Thank you for sharing so candidly and admitting that you share in this struggle. It’s a process! 🙂 You are truly gifted with words, and in my opinion, you are a writer, girl! Keep using those gifts to His glory.

  4. Love this so very much and I can’t wait to read Ann and Charity’s book. Thank you for your lovely review and I just love that story. It’s so good to read from other voices about the self-doubt we plague ourselves with. Yes, Kate, you are a writer. (Hope you’ll link up too to Literacy Musing Mondays on my site. This is just so great!)

    • Thanks for reminding me about the Literacy Musing Mondays link-up, Ashley! I did go over and add this post. I appreciate the invitation! And yes, I highly recommend the book! 🙂

  5. Oh how I can relate. It feels so strange to say the words out loud. Love that little girl who saw your little girl heart, “You look like a writer.” Sweet words from the Lord, I’d say. Beautiful.

  6. Identity is such a huge one…I get caught up on it all the time because I am so apt to define myself by what I do. There is a fear of failure associated with claiming identity because if I fail then it wasn’t just at being me, it was me + the task at hand. Whether it was “just” being a stay-at-home mom or “just” writing a little blog, if we minimize the task then maybe we’ll minimize the failure too, right? Not that I’d go shouting success from the rooftops either though. Yup, pathetic! God has encouraged me to tie my identity to my calling, “I’m called to write.” Somehow that shifts the responsibility onto Him and makes it much less nervewracking to admit. Lol!

    • Good thoughts, Tiffany! Thank you for sharing. It is a battle, isn’t it? One friend of mine read a post I wrote on grief, which I shared with her after she lost her daughter. She made a comment that has stuck with me. She said, “Thank you for being faithful to write.” Faithful to write. It was a concept I hadn’t thought of before, but has really helped me ever since. If you’re called to write, and the Lord has gifted you in that area, then you go and write your heart out for His glory! 🙂

  7. oh dear I’ve been there. even though my words were published over a decade ago i still sometimes struggle to say, “I a writer.” other days I simply say I’m a mom. and maybe its because of the company. being a “writer” my words are my heart laid open, and i often feel unqualified for the position. so why add additional criticism from someone you can’t always trust with your heart. thanks for your story, I’ve missed our time together over here at GW.

    • Teresa, this sounds so similar to the content in Chapter 1 of this book. They give great suggestions for how to “ease into” the identity, and how to brace yourself for potential criticism. I highly recommend it! I’ve missed our Grace Writers group as well! Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Love this! God blesses us with gifts yet we are too afraid to claim them as ours. You need to claim your gift as a writer and proudly tell all ten year olds-and others that you are a writer. Blessed by this and you!

  9. For me it’s in calling myself an artist. When the words do trip out of my mouth, I tend to qualify them with, yes, but I just…..I’m not sure why it’s so hard. I like the questions posed as they help get us out of the denial and into acceptance. Good post, Kate!

  10. So true Kate, we can feel like a fraud. I think this is why it is so easy to want to fight for a book or to get an article published; we seek for external validation. Thank you for your words today. Cheering you on from #woman2woman

  11. Great post. I’m starting as a writer. I wanted always to write, there was something I had inside. But because of the fears, I didn’t do it. Now, I’m letting go those fears and I just decided to start. One step at a time. I just see myself encouraging others, reaching places through writing. “I am a writer” and I am a reader, this is who I am. Those are positions or things I love to do, where I can grow, learn, and be myself with transparency. Thanks for sharing this encouraging words. It makes me think where I am, and where I want to be. Makes me want to continue writing about Jesus, the word of God and my experiences with Him.

    Love and Blessings,
    Tayrina from TGAWrites

  12. Kate, I definitely need to get this book:) I think I’ve had that same conversation with students at school! I dance around the subject like I don’t know how to answer it. Thank you for talking about this very real struggle for ‘writers’ here today. Blessings!

  13. Kate, I easily could have been standing in your shoes for this one. I visited with a mom when picking my daughter up from a play date the other day. She asked what I did. I apologetically explained I was a blogger, who makes no money, spends hours each day “working,” etc. My inner voice, perhaps it was even the Holy Spirit, was screaming, “Stop rambling already. She doesn’t care.” I definitely think you’re a writer. And am thankful for what you share on here.

  14. Me, too, me, too! I denied the writer in me for a long time until the Father brought me under conviction for not using all of the gifts He bestowed. I know this post will speak to many as we all struggle to claim that identity. It’s as if we want some sort of proof from the world that we’ve been accepted as such (a viral post, a book deal, etc.) rather than listening to the One who created us to be just that – writers. Thanks for sharing this over at Tell His Story!
    Jen, writer at Being Confident of This 🙂

  15. I don’t consider myself a writer …. just yet! I am a wanna be writer. I need to practice more and develop the skill. I am looking forward to your next piece at Literacy Musing Mondays.

  16. Hi, thanks for linking up with Literacy Musing Mondays. Your post was the most clicked this week and being featured tonight! Thanks again for your wonderful support. I really enjoyed reading this post. It was a great approach to a book review and inspired me.

  17. Thank you so much for sharing. There’s always been something about a pen and paper or a computer that gives me goosebumps. I can’t explain the feeling. But I got caught up in life and stopped writing until recently. As excited as I am, I feel pretty inadequate. My new blog has gotten off to a good start, but I’m still a tad nervous about where this will lead. I know God will open doors if the words bring him glory, so I am determined to stick with it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this book and your own struggles and joys!

    • Sounds like you have a great attitude and the right mindset, Kristin! Thank you for sharing this glimpse into your own journey! May God indeed bless your efforts as you seek to bring Him glory!

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