Do you feel comfortable calling yourself a writer?
If not, what do you think are the requirements to earn the title of writer?
A published book?
Hours spent pouring over the page every day?
A contract with an agent?
The truth is that while doing these things makes one a writer, these aren’t the only things.
It’s much simpler than that.
At the most basic level, a writer is someone who writes.
The doubt that thinking this could possibly be true--that it really could be this simple--comes from our brain playing all kinds of tricks on us.
It tells us that we aren’t good enough, published enough, experienced enough to deserve the title of ‘writer.’
It tells us that the title of ‘writer’ is reserved for those who have worked much harder and much longer at writing than we have.
It asks us: “Who are you to call yourself a writer?”
And we think our brain is right. (Because our brain is always right, right?)
So we believe it.
We don't own our writerhood.
Then we don’t write. (OR if we do write, we keep it small and safe and to ourselves.)
Our brain is happy because we stay safe.
We, on the other hand, are not because denying that we are a writer is denying a part of who we are deep down inside.
So what’s going on here?
It’s actually quite simple.
Our primal brain, the part of our brain that is responsible for keeping us safe, comfortable, and alive, begins to get nervous when we go about giving ourselves official-sounding titles such as writer.
The primal brain thinks that allowing us to step into our writerhood could put us at risk.
We may share our writing (as writers do) and people may hate it which could cause us some emotional pain.
Or if we dare to call ourselves writers, we may spend lots of time sitting in front of our computers expending a lot of mental energy engaged in the act of writing instead of lounging on the sofa in a comatose state while bingeing on Netflix.
And while we know that these risks fall very low on the life-threatening-riskiness-scale, our primal brains do not.
Our primal brain needs to keep us safe and ready to react in case a mammoth should come trouncing through town, threatening to cause us harm. (There's a reason why it's called the primal brain, you know. This part of our brain has not evolved.)
So it jumps into action and sends out all kinds of messages lies about how you aren’t a writer, how you shouldn’t waste your time writing, how no one will want to read what you write, how you don’t know enough/do enough/have enough experience to write what you want to write.
And unless we know better, it is so, so easy to believe the brain. Most of the time we even do it without realizing it.
Calming the Brain
But we don’t have to be tricked anymore. When our brain starts getting all nervous, we can gently tell it to hush up.
We can show it that there is nothing to fear.
When we write.
And we share.
And we grow.
And we fall in love with ourselves as writers.
(Because being a writer is a pretty cool thing.)
When we do, our primal brain will realize that there is nothing to fear when a person who writes calls themself a writer.
It will relax and leave us to do our work.
Our brain is happy.
We are happy.
Your writerhood is calling,
P.S. Want to learn more about how the brain keeps us playing small in our creative life? Join me in the Teach Write Academy for The Write Mindset Workshop where you’ll learn so many of the brain’s little tricks that you’ll never be fooled again!
P.S.S. If you are a classroom teacher, ask your students what they think a writer is. Their answers may fascinate you!
P.S.S.S. Don’t forget about our Time to Write Workshop, THE place where teacher-writers of all levels and skill gather to write and call themselves writers. It’s a total blast and the best way to keep your nagging brain quiet.
P.S.S.S.S. You really ARE a writer!
Jen Laffin is the founder of Teach Write LLC and Jen Laffin Coaching. She loves to help teachers grow as writers because when they do, their students do too! Jen invites you to be a part of the Teach Write Community by joining one of the workshops for teacher-writers inside the Teach Write Academy. Interested in working one-on-one with Jen to take a deep dive into all the ways your brain holds you back? Visit her coaching website here to learn more.