It was a simple exercise performed at the beginning of my very first writer’s retreat that had me facing my subconscious. We were instructed to approach others in attendance, greet them with a handshake, and then proclaim, “I am a writer and I am here to write!” We moved from attendee to attendee until we had made the rounds and matter-of-factly greeted one another with these same words.
No big deal, right? Honestly? Wrong. It made me squirm, likely because I’m not exactly sure what a “writer” is. And I am not certain I am one.
No matter, saying those four simple words – “I am a writer” – stirred up some shit. Oddly, it quickly became an exercise in how I see myself – how I truly see myself – rather than how others may or may not perceive me.
“FRAUD” is the word that bellowed in my head. “Who the hell do you think you are referring to yourself as a writer?” “IMPOSTER!” was hidden behind my awkward smile. I’ve struggled my entire life with the measure of my achievements completely out of sync with my internal view of myself. And so there it was…again.
I don’t embrace titles or accomplishments well. And for those who know I have, among other things, written a book (that has been published, for gosh sake), you might find that curious, even strange. Yes, intellectually, I do, too. But to my way of thinking, a layperson bravely stepping forward to deliver a baby in a moment of crisis does not make one an obstetrician. So writing a book in an effort to help others did not make me “a writer.” In my estimation, all I did was deliver the baby.
And when the “imposter” in me reappears, that logic seems incredibly, and unfortunately, rational.
That is, until I had to say it over and over again: “I am a writer,” “I am a writer,” “I am a writer.” It begins to reach a level of sensibility to add “writing” to my list of hobbies because, well, hobbies are “safe.” “Reading, gardening, baking, knitting…writing.” I might consider being brave enough to identify with the -ing version of the word.
But the -er version of the word? Can I legitimately call myself “a writer?” Maybe the constant crashing and colliding of all those words in my brain is the “writer” trying to find a safe place to land: a piece of paper, a Word document, or an entry on the Notes app of my phone. If, on some level, that were not true, it would have been completely irrational for me to have been compelled to attend a writer’s retreat, and of all things, not once but twice.
Is there possibly a “writer” in me trying to find her way out?
For now, I may not be able to fully embrace “writer.” But maybe I can embrace “word pilot”: someone who carefully lands collections of ordered letters and reasonably articulated ideas safely onto a page. And then maybe I can admittedly breathe a sigh of relief each time I place the tires on the tarmac. The repeated touch and go maneuvers of my thoughts have been, and are, incredibly exhausting and not the least bit satisfying. I desperately need to create a runway to land my words.
So, may I introduce myself?
“I am a word pilot and I am here for a very hard landing.”
There. That I can live with.