I am a contributing writer for two publications and a co-editor at one. I am a research assistant for a professor who has me write chapter and article summaries. I write every day for school; I write papers, essays, notes and emails. I write all the time, for my various jobs and classes (and life), but I do not feel like a writer. "Writer" is a title I would never ascribe to myself.
Maybe this has to do with my high school experience in English and literature classes where, for the first time, I felt woefully bad at something. Up until this point, writing was simply fact and reading regurgitation or statements of opinion, but then came overly analytic and persuasive essays, and I choked.
I struggled greatly with the rigid structure of five-paragraph essays we were taught: topic sentence, concrete detail, commentary, commentary and repeat. I didn't seem to grasp that this concept was to help me arrive at a type of overall analysis, and without this larger framework, there was no way I could succeed at its specific details. It wasn't that I was a poor writer, per se. I had a decent "voice" and my grammar and vocabulary were fairly good, except for my penchant for run-ons or overly complex sentences, something I have yet to grow out of. But, I had a hard time writing theses and finding analytic points to support my arguments, which was disappointing as a highly opinionated person.
To be honest, I can't quite pin what I was doing wrong or why, but my English classes were the only ones I regularly underperformed in, and I felt like a failure, even when my grades were not reflective of such a problem. Maybe it was because I had parents who are both phenomenal and articulate writers or had a number of friends who were stellar writers, coupled with the competitive college prep environment of my high school that made me feel the need to best all my peers, but I had constant lingering feelings of lack. At a certain point, even, I had a couple teachers recommend I move up to honors English classes, but I scoffed at such a suggestion. I didn't want to be challenged even more when I was already feeling tested by each paper; I knew the teachers were supposed to be tough and had high expectations I didn't feel I could meet.
Finally, though, I conceded and moved into an honors class for one year. I had a fantastic teacher but still felt such anxiety about paper-writing that even a good instructor was unable to change my feelings about writing. I continued to avoid it like a plague, as I had semi-successfully done throughout my schooling. Then came college, where as a social science and liberal arts double major, writing could no longer be ignored. So, I sucked it up, and suddenly, I was being praised for my writing skills at a collegiate level.
While I performed well grade-wise on writing assignments, the whole process of paper-writing was still a deep struggle for me, filled with anxiety and procrastination as a result. I would let my old thoughts of lack of worth come back, and think to myself, "I can't do this. It's going to be too hard. I won't do well." But, of course, this only made things worse; it made me continue to hate writing.
Except, I kept doing well, I kept being applauded for my skill, and I eventually stopped hating it. In fact, I started to love it and see the talent I had, but I would tell myself that this talent was limited, it was only academic writing I excelled at. Then, I started to write for a music publication, and I thought maybe I could be good at journalistic writing. And then, I started to write for Odyssey and thought maybe I could be good at personal essays and more narrative structure. So, even though I don't always feel like one, at a certain point, I guess I became a writer.
Writing is a part of every obligation I have taken on as an adult, and I love it and how happy it makes me. Writing is the career field I am about to attempt to enter into in a couple months post-graduation, despite the many naysayers who have told me how hard and competitive it is, how it's a dying industry (and they are right about all of these things, by the way). But at least for right now, I am a writer, and this is what I want to do.
I was always jealous of the people who had a passion and skill so deep that they simply had to do it, there was no other option, such as my friends who are artists, musicians or writers. In fact, my dream job, if I could be granted any set of skills, was always to be a novelist; I just never thought I could be. But, at this point, who knows?
I never called myself a writer before because I didn’t feel good enough and did not want to challenge myself to be better, but I have gotten better. So, maybe it is time I put these feelings of inadequacy aside, step up to the plate and call myself a writer. Maybe, with that extra push, I will be one step closer to actually becoming one. Maybe, I already am.