This is my entry for Positive Writer’s “Your Calling, Your Story” contest.
I’m not the picture of a successful writer. So far, I haven’t had a novel published by a major publisher, let alone become a New York Times bestseller or await a movie/TV adaptation. I don’t yet have an agent, and my social media following is still relatively small. My writing credits are a smattering of articles and poems here and there.
But none of this bothers me. In fact, I’m proud of where I am.
Comparing my journey to those of other writers is fruitless and unproductive, a mere distraction from the real task: writing. Even more importantly, in the last few years, despite more rejections than I can count, I’ve worn more confidently the “writer” label. And I believe you can, too.
Who am I? Why does a counseling graduate student have anything to say about writing? As a child, I loved stories and books. Since I was three, I’ve been basically reading and writing nonstop. But when I was going to college, I couldn’t figure out how to turn my passion for writing into a productive career. I believed, like many other people, that you needed extra-special talent and extra connections to become a full-time writer, and you probably wouldn’t make much money unless you become a household name.
I was debating between a major in English or psychology. I could’ve doubled and done both, but I didn’t want to overload my schedule. So I went with psych, thinking then at least I could help others in a concrete way and not have to deal with blank stares when I said I didn’t want to become an English teacher.
I loved my major (I still love it enough to get a master’s in it), but I still persisted in my writing hobby. By my sophomore spring break, I’d completed the first draft of my first novel. I learned everything I know about writing novels (and revising them, and revising again) from reading blogs and websites about the writing craft. I learned the importance of story structure and external feedback, two elements of the writing life I still swear by today (and I think most other writers do, as well).
All along, I had been hesitant about taking formal writing classes – who can really teach creativity? But when my junior year rolled around, I wanted to formalize my writing education a little so I would force myself to take it more seriously. I picked up a minor in creative writing, and my first class was in something I had never tried: playwriting.
This was really the first time my creative work had been open to critique from my peers and friends, as well as a qualified professor. This was also one of the first times I felt validated as a creator. There were bumps in my story to smooth out, times when I really didn’t know what to do next. But by the end of the semester, I was proud of my finished product, and much more confident in my identity as a writer.
Around this time (well, I might have known it all along, but this was the first time I was able to put it into words, ironically enough), I realized the overlap between writing and psychology. I knew journaling was commonly used in mental health practice. I knew I felt better after writing, and I knew the stories I had written often showed me truths about myself that I hadn’t even intended to face. Now, I’m always seeking ways I can integrate my passions, and I don’t intend to give up on either.
“Writer” doesn’t have to be in your job description for your words to matter. If you have something to say, you’re already halfway there. I didn’t have to wait for any publication credits, milestones, or validation. I became a writer when I became comfortable calling myself one.