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  • Sophia Dunkin-Hubby

How to Feel Like a Writer



My sister and I have been talking about how to feel like the artists that we are. I am a writer, she is a visual artist. We know this about ourselves and each other, but we have both had trouble claiming those titles. Last year I wrote about struggling to call myself a writer. Since then I’ve made a lot of progress in embracing that title. Somewhere in the middle of the summer I realized – I’m a real writer! This is how I managed to get there.

Tell yourself that you are.

This is where it starts and ends. Ultimately you are the only person who can bestow that title on yourself. You have to tell yourself that you are a writer and then believe it. Say it out loud. Say it to others. Repetition is key. It took me a full year of doing this regularly to finally start believing it. (I’ve actually been a writer much longer, but I only realized that I didn’t believe that I was one a year ago.)

Connect with your tribe.

There’s a reason books on creativity and writing tell you to find your tribe. Hanging out with people who do what you do is inspiring and confidence boosting. I’ve made friends with other writers that I’ve met through writing workshops and, through one of them, joined a writing group. They don’t doubt that I’m a writer. They take me seriously. Talking about our work, sharing our struggles and successes makes the fact that I am a writer more real.

Finding a tribe can be difficult. Just because you meet someone else who is a writer does not mean that you are automatically going to want to hang out with them. There are plenty of writers out there that I do not wish to be friends with. Be persistent and keep looking until you find a writer you do want to be friends with and go from there, because it is so worth it. Also, keep in mind that they don’t have to be a writer. Anyone who is creative can be a member of your tribe as long as you can talk to them about your work and theirs.

Tell your inner critic, Steve, to shut up.

In Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk and Other Truths About Being Creative by Danielle Krysa, she talks about calling your inner critic something else since critic has such negative connotations. She talks about one writer who named his Arlo. I’ve named mine Steve. (It’s from an Eddie Izzard joke.) Steve whispers, or sometimes yells, doubts about all the creative things I do. He really objected to my calling myself a writer. I’ve tried making nice, turning what he says into positive statements, telling him he can come on the journey but doesn’t get to drive. I finally started telling him to shut up. He doesn’t always listen, but once I’ve told him to be quiet I can usually ignore him.

Do whatever you need to do with your inner critic, or whatever you want to call it, to get it out of the way. It’s your life, your work, and your title. You’re in charge.

Write every day, even if it's only a postcard.

If I can’t work on my book, I need to work on something. I don’t actually have to write fiction. I can work on a blog post, or write in my journal, or jot down notes, or write a postcard to a friend. I just need to write something, even if it’s small. Writing by hand is usually the most satisfying.

Use the fancy stationary.

My sister and I have been obsessed with stationary since we were kids. My dad did a lot of business in Japan and would bring us back stationary sets from his trips there. Once we hit college we graduated to lusting after letter press. There is just something about nice paper that makes me feel like an adult. It also makes me feel like those women in period films who dress for dinner and constantly write letters, but that’s another story.

I am very particular about the paper that I write on. I used to use a sketch book, like my mom, but the paper was too scratchy against my hand as it moved over the page. Lined notebooks from Office Max or CVS are ubiquitous and cheap, but also unsatisfying. Instead I use Moleskine notebooks. You know, the expensive, leather bound ones that are just like Hemingway used to use. Leuchttrum 1917 makes a similar one. Writing in those using a disposable fountain pen, Varsity by Pilot, make me feel like a serious writer.

Finding the things that make you feel like a writer may be different than mine. This journey is a personal one. But if it is something that you want, it is one you need to take.

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