I've always struggled with my identity as a writer, yet I've always loved to write. When I was in the 8th grade, I took my first stab at writing a novel. I was so secretive about it that nobody except a couple close friends and family members knew about the task. I was so embarrassed about the whole thing that I forced them to refer to the project as my koob (book spelled backward. Yes, real creative, I know).
When I was in kindergarten I wanted to be an artist. I even won a competition at school and had some of my work displayed at a local art gallery. Yet just a few months after that event someone again asked the question, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" I answered proudly. "I want to be an artist." What I received in return was not support and confidence, but rather a haughty laugh. "Oh, so you want to be poor?" Within a week, I had abandoned my aspirations of being an artist, and yes, I was only five.
Practicality has always been one my biggest demons.
I’ve always had to manage this thick tension between my own creativity and practicality.
I was a senior in high-school when 2008 hit and the economy/world fell apart as we knew it. I was set up to go to a small school in Missouri to study multimedia design. After the crash, I dropped advanced art and enrolled myself in calculus so I could get into the Colorado School of Mines, become an engineer, and provide for my future family, whoever they may be.
It’s worth mentioning that my parents were always very supportive of my creativity and were actually quite skeptical when I first chose to go to Mines. Practicality was never pushed by them or anyone else. It’s simply been my cross to bear.
Every time I try my hand at an artistic or creative endeavor, I am immediately met with the voices. “What the hell are you doing? Why are you wasting your time? You should be doing something more useful. Nobody will ever want to read this.” And seemingly every time, the voices have won.
One of my goals for 2017 was to write publicly, but deeply embedded in that goal was the desire to overcome this demon. What I’ve realized is that the first step to doing that is being honest with myself. This isn’t "practicality" I’m dealing with here. It’s mountainous self-doubt.
Practicality is useful. It has saved me from making some severely awful decisions. However, when left unchecked, it easily morphs into self-doubt and annihilates my ambition, dreams, and self-confidence.
It’s been two months since I launched intent/content. I wish the point of this post was to give you a recipe for eradicating the voices, but it’s not. I still hear them every single day. “You’re not a real writer. Who do you think you’re fooling? Give it up already!”
I think they’ll always be there, which completely sucks. However, I have found some reprieve. While I may always be plagued with some level of self-doubt, the truth is that there’s another voice worth listening to. It says, “You are worthy, you are talented, you are capable.” The goal is to find that voice and embrace those words.
One of my favorite moments in my life was road-tripping with my dad through upstate New York. I’d always wanted to visit Cornell and in the fall of 2014 we did just that. Inside one of the buildings, there’s a giant quote on the wall. “A writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.”
I’ve embraced that quote. You don’t become a real writer when you sell a certain number of copies, have a certain number of followers, or publish a certain number of posts. You’re a real writer when you choose to start writing.
Take it one step further. You’re a designer when you choose to start designing. You’re an artist when you choose to make art. You’re a creator when you choose to create.
Don’t let the negative voices dictate who you are. It may be a battle every single day, but you get to decide what to listen to. Will you create? Will you pursue that dream? Will you believe in yourself? It’s completely up to you.
And if you haven’t found the right voice just yet, then listen to this: I believe in you, whoever you are. You are worthy, you are talented, you are capable. Be who you want to be. It starts today.
Questions to consider:
- Which voices are you dealing with in your own life?
- Have they disguised themselves as practicality, honesty, or truth?
- How have you overcome self-doubt?
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