It starts as a childhood wish: When I grow up I wanna be . . . . Sometimes, you try on a lot of dreams, a lot of roles. One day, you discover your true dream. I discovered my love of powerful words. My dream was to write fiction.
I have spread my dreams beneath your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. –W.B. Yeats
Many years ago, I had decided I would make my living as a writer. The first person I shared a story with was a family member. She thought they were cute, like the little stories I had read as a child.
I had sold several stories to magazines. The pay wasn’t great. So I decided I would teach a ‘How to Write Fiction’ class at a local community center.
I prepared an introduction to myself and the course, a syllabus, ten lessons, in-class exercises, homework, and reading assignments for each class. I rehearsed and rehearsed. I was ready!
The First Question
Finally, the day arrived. Eight students, ranging from a high schooler to a gray-haired woman of undetermined age, waited for me. I took a deep breath and stepped in front of the class. I welcomed them to the class, introduced myself by name and declared “I am a professional writer.” A hand raised. A question already?
“When did you start calling yourself a professional writer?” the student asked.
When? Intellectually, I had prepared an answer to that question, but emotionally? Not so much. I couldn’t even admit to myself that I had just said the words out loud for the first time. Instead, I answered with the information I’d prepared. I told the student that I had been a professional writer since I began writing with the intent to sell what I wrote. I told her every time I send out a story or a query with the intent to sell it, I am saying that I am a professional writer. I think I even quoted the definition of professional to the class.
I was being truthful, my answer fit the definition of professional and my approach to writing fiction. But, as truthful as that answer was, I didn’t believe it even as I said it. Still, my answer seemed to satisfy the questioner.
I ended up teaching in that community center for a couple of years. My classes grew in size, I had many students who took every class. I defined myself as a professional writer in written and spoken words over and over again. The more I defined myself that way, the more I acted that way.
Life happened. I made other things a priority while my writing took a backseat to the traumas and banalities of life. But the dream was still mine. I continued to write and submit what I wrote. Sometimes I could only do a little, sometimes a lot. I kept saying that I was a professional writer to anyone who asked (and some that didn’t) because I’ve learned those words are powerful words.
Don’t Listen to Naysayers
Everyone has a dream. Maybe your dream is to be a writer, a chef, or a plumber. No matter what the dream is, sometimes it is hard to believe it will ever happen. Self-doubt can be a monster if you feed it. Don’t be your own worst naysayer. Don’t call your dream a dream or a hobby or ‘something I dabble in.’ Don’t say someday. Say today.
Maybe you or your parents, your partner, or your friends call your dream cute, or a hobby, or call it your ‘little’ whatever. You excuse them because it’s not really _bad_ stuff they’re saying. Yes. It. Is. Stop the negative energy where ever it’s coming from. Ask for the support you need.
Make a mantra, “I am a . . .” fill-in-the-blank. Write it in big letters. Pin it up somewhere you’ll see it every day. Say it out loud. “I am a –.” Repeat it as many times a day as you need it. There is power in the spoken word that grows with repetition. Feed yourself power, not negativity.
Follow through with your statement. Take classes. Improve your craft through practice.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Live the life you have imagined.
— Henry David Thoreau
Don’t let your fears of not being successful, of not being perfect, be an excuse not to try. Don’t let anyone keep you at the childish wish stage. Use the powerful words. Change I wanna be a . . . . to I am.
I really enjoyed this. It’s strange how sometimes getting asked a basic question like, when did you think of yourself as a professional really makes you dig deep and come to terms with your own shakiness
Basic questions do seem to cut to the heart of the matter, don’t they? Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Karla.
Hey Lynette, I agree completely. Words had great power and we need to be aware of how we use them in our daily lives. Great post, thought provoking. Thanks for sharing some of your story. 🙂
Hi, Prudence. So glad you enjoyed this post. You are so right, we need to be aware of the words we use every day. Thanks for sharing.
Great post, Lynette! And so true. Lani Diane Rich presented at our RWA chapter one time, and had one I’ll always remember. She said she regularly tells herself “I am a great writer!” and urged us all to do the same. We need to perceive ourselves as both “great” and professional first, if we want others to!
I’d say you got some ‘great’ advice from Lani Diane Rich. 🙂 We definitely need to perceive ourselves as great and professional. If we don’t believe it, who will?
Totally agree, Lynette. Never let anyone tell you your dream is unworthy. I’ve firsthand experience with using positive thought to shape how I want my life to turn out. It works. Great post! You are brave woman to stand up and teach that class. Bravo!
Thanks, Serena. Positive thinking is essential in being successful and in all other areas of life. There’s a big surge in health care to recognize the power of positive thinking in recovering from serious health events.
This is so true Lynette. Great message and that Thoreau quote is so motivating!
Thanks, Coleen. I love that Thoreau quote, too.
The power of our words, to us, cannot be underestimated. As you mentioned when we speak our truth out loud, it becomes real and a beacon to lead us forward.
thanks for the valuable post.
Louise, I love how you said that, ‘when we speak our truth out loud, it becomes real and a beacon to lead us forward.’
Great post, Lynette! Boy, can I relate. I’m a talker, never been at a loss for words, but the first writing conference I went to, an established author sat down beside me and said “So you’re a writer?”
I mumbled, “Trying to be.” He said something like, “If you write, then you’re a writer.”
Bless him! I realized that day that I had to label myself as a writer, with a confident tone in my voice, before anyone else would see me that way.
What a terrific thing for him to say to you! So glad you found your confidence, Kassandra.
Oh wow Lynette. This is fantastic. I sure wish I had your background. I think my writing came about through some kind of mid-life crises. LOL! I’ve not been at this for very long and I’m trying to catch up to you all. It was a revelation to me that I really had the personality of a writer all my life but just didn’t know it. Yet, I do think of myself as a writer. A great writer? Well, that remains to be seen. But I am working on that. 🙂
*blush* Thanks, Karen. I am glad you think of yourself as a writer, because what I’ve seen of it says you are. Hey, I can’t call myself a great writer. I can write some great stuff, but not all of it is great. 🙁 I think you can easily say the same thing. 😀