“You are a Writer.”
“Ian, you are a writer.”
And with those words, I decided: I was going to give this writing thing a real crack. I wasn’t anywhere special when someone told me I was a writer; it was the lunchroom at my workplace, and a colleague of mine had read my story and liked it. What made it special was her background in publishing, and how much I value her input. Those five words broke through a barrier of doubt that had subtly plagued me: was I good enough to pursue writing? Should I not bother and sink my energy into something else? A year on, I still have doubts, but I know my writing continues to improve every time I work.
I’m not saying that I needed someone to tell I was a writer before I could kick on and create more stories; it was the affirmation that I needed – to break through the initial walls I had started my writing career with. You see, I think it takes a certain amount of ignorance to begin writing. That might be ignorance of the work that ahead of you, or ignorance of how what you’re about to write may well fail. When I wrote my first novella, I was looking for a challenge, but I was unaware of the work required to craft a story and then polish it to perfection. I simply knew that I wanted to write, and so I wrote.
Affirmation is a funny thing – coming from a random person, it’s nice, and helps me feel good about my craft; but when someone who’s walked the same literary path gives me a compliment or some solid advice, it can carry me for weeks. I love hearing from people who’ve read my work, and I cherish those interactions, but now I’m getting to the pointy end of the publishing process, I’m seeking out professional feedback and advice to see if I can get my manuscript published (hence why I’m going to the Writers Victoria Publishing Intensive this weekend). I may get knocked back, but I’ll keep coming back to what first got me started: I am a writer, I can do this, just tell me how I can improve.
I have no doubt that the road ahead will be tough, but along the way I know I’ll come across kind words and gestures that will keep me going. I wrote a thank you piece a month ago, and I continue to be grateful for the ongoing support of so many people. The same person who gave me the words I opened this post with also told me once that a completed book is the culmination of the efforts of dozens of people – and she’s right.
So if you’re just starting out on your writing journey, let me encourage you to find those people who can give you honest encouragement. Find the ones you can trust with your writing, and let them in on your world. The affirmations of those you trust will get you through the tough times. As the saying goes:
If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.
You are a writer.