Let’s talk identity. Let’s talk self-esteem, self-worth, labels, and life.
The first year or so after I started writing, I found it a terrifying thing to try to talk about my writing. What would I say? How do I explain that I’m writing a novel? How do I talk about my story? What do I say when people ask “so, what’s your book about?” My little novel felt like something so personal, like a dark secret that I couldn’t share with anyone I knew. (Sharing with strangers online to get my work critiqued was oddly unfrightening. The opinion of strangers mattered much less to me than the opinion of friends or acquaintances.)
It took me a long time to be comfortable sharing with people the fact that I am a writer. But eventually, I learned how to bring it up in conversations. How to give a few-sentence synopsis of my story when people asked what my book was about. How to deal with people’s response to me saying “I’m writing a book.” I was ready; I’d made it.
I was ready to call myself a writer.
When NaNoWriMo came along, I posted about it on Facebook. I updated a couple times, sharing bits of my writing journey. When I finished editing my first novel, I even got so bold as to letting friends read my work. *gasp*
And then I got to the point where it /maybe/ went too far. I started to find my identity in being a Writer. *I* was working on getting published. *I* had written two novels. *I* was an Amazing, Outstanding, Uniquely Awesome type of person whom everyone should admire.
And then –
Life got busy, and I stopped writing as much.
I decided I probably didn’t want to publish my first novel. (The simplified version is that I outgrew it.)
Another story idea that I’d run with for a while didn’t want to be made into a novel.
Suddenly, I wasn’t the “Ideal Writer” anymore. And that made me feel not-so-great.
What if I never got published? What if I never finished this WIP? What if I just never sat down to write again? What if life is just too busy for me as an adult? What if _____?
You know what? It doesn’t matter.
You see, my self-worth as a human has never been based on the fact that I’m a writer. Sure, writing has brought me a lot of joy and fulfillment and made my life better and more interesting. It’s introduced me to new friends and taught me about hard work and perseverance. But my value as a human being has never been, and never will be, tied to my writing. I am not a word-count. I am not “worthless” if I never publish a book. All of those ideas are fallacious and dangerous.
My self-worth is found elsewhere.
Someone decided long ago that I was worth dying for. (His name’s Jesus; he’s a pretty cool guy and I highly recommend being friends with him.) My self-worth is based off the fact that I’m a child of God, more loved than I could imagine.
As a human being, I have intrinsic value that is not tied to what I do.
Furthermore, I’ve never been just a writer. I am so many other things, and to describe myself as just one thing would be an oversimplification.
I am a student, studying to get a degree in English with a concentration in Secondary Ed, so that some day I can pass on to others my love for literature, stories, and semi-colons.
I am a book-lover, one who finds pieces of herself scattered across the pages of a hundred different stories.
I am a nerd, one who uses Doctor Who and LOTR quotes to relate to the world around her.
I am a creator, one who finds joy from writing blog posts and making videos and drawing fanart and making cards for people and touching the world in little ways.
I am a friend, one who will support people through literally whatever life throws at them.
I am a (novice) musician, one who finds peace and joy from learning to play an instrument.
I am an equestrian, one who has studied the Silent Language of horses, and can speak back to them in their own language. When I ride a horse, we do not walk or trot or canter – we fly.
I am a traveler, one who has seen bits and pieces of the world, and has caught a bit of Wanderlust, wanting to see more of the planet I live on.
And yes, I am also a writer: one who turns caffeine into stories, who dreams things into existence, whose fingertips on keys bring unrealities to life.
I am a complex human, and putting pressure on myself to write so that I have value is neither healthy or helpful to my writing process.
Okay. I think that is all for now. Remember that your self-worth does not come from what you do, and that you should write because you want to, not because you feel like you have to.