Hi. My name is Paula, and I . . . am a writer.
You know how long it’s taken me to muster up the courage to use that sacred word to describe myself, what I do, what I love?
Try 37 years.
I’ve always loved words. Big words, little words, common nouns and proper nouns. Diagram sentences? Why yes, thank you, don’t mind if I do!
And books . . . I love everything about books. The beauty of the cover, the feel of the paper between my fingers, the foreplay-like anticipation of moving from back cover to front cover to preface and finally breathing in that pivotal first sentence. I mean, why is it that I can remember my public library card number from more than three decades ago (2838), but I can’t remember to put money in my son’s lunch account?
But despite studying writing, teaching writing, and actually writing and editing in my “real job,” I still hesitate to call myself a writer. And I know I’m not alone. For some reason we don’t feel worthy to bestow that title upon ourselves until we’ve gotten a “book deal” or 2000 hits a day to our blog or until someone else says, “So, I hear you’re a writer…” Writers seem to be the antithesis of actors. Ask any waitress in L.A. what she does for a living and she’ll likely tell you she’s an actress. Ask any writer what she does for a living and she’ll likely tell you she’s a mom, or a teacher, or a marketing consultant, or a waitress . . . oh, and I do a little writing too.
A friend and I were just talking about this last night. She has been blogging for a year or so but has yet to publish a post. Why? She’s afraid that she’s not good enough. She’s afraid of misspelling “their” or placing a comma in the wrong place. She’s afraid of what people will think.
But the truth is, she’s a writer. Being a writer isn’t about being able to quote Gregg’s Style Manual from memory (although I probably could) or making sure you have a 1-inch indent all the way around your paper. It’s about saying what you want to say the way you want to say it. It’s about voice and passion and resonating with your audience, whether your audience is all 130 gazillion of Oprah’s fans or just your mom. It’s about letting go of fears and owning it with a little attitude: Yeah, that’s right, I’m a writer.
I thought of my friend today as I read this fantastic post from Copyblogger called “7 Bad Writing Habits You Learned in School.” Genius, really. Whether you consider yourself a writer (or are considering considering yourself a writer) or just write the occasional email, you’ll benefit from this post. And Friend ( you know who you are), forget about whether you should use “who” or “whom” and just click the “publish” button! You ARE a writer!
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