I’m not who you think I am.
When you look at my blog, it’s easy to think that writing comes easily to me, that I’ve always been a writer.
But that’s not true.
I’ve never thought of myself as a writer.
Many writers say that they always wanted to be a writer. They wrote poems when they were young. They kept diaries through the years. They dreamed of being a published author.
I’m not like that.
At school, I wasn’t good at writing essays. I didn’t like it, and I didn’t understand why my essays were average or worse.
I never wrote poems. I never dreamed about becoming an author. I never felt like I was creative. And I only kept a travel diary when I went backpacking for 5 months in China when I was 20.
Throughout most of my life, I probably wrote as little as possible.
But something changed …
In 2011, content marketing was becoming popular.
I was working as a marketing director at a small company, and I realized I had to learn how to write.
I read a couple of books on content marketing and writing. I took a course. I studied blog posts and sales pages to figure out how other people put a piece of writing together.
I discovered that writing isn’t magic.
I could learn how to write, how to share my ideas, how to structure my writing, how to engage readers and be more persuasive.
I also fooled myself …
I told myself that writing a blog or a sales letter wasn’t real writing. It was the kind of not-quite-real-writing that I could master as a non-creative person.
I had to tell myself I wasn’t really writing so I could start writing.
When Copyblogger published my first guest post in April 2012, I gained confidence in my writing skills. I realized it was time to escape corporate life and get rid of the boss I hated. It was time to fly out and start my own business.
I didn’t really know how I’d earn my money. Maybe some consultancy. I had some savings, and I was planning to take a sabbatical to figure things out and recover from the years of corporate stress, office politics, and bruising budget fights.
I also wanted to write a few guest posts to raise my online profile.
I left my job at the end of September 2012, and to my surprise, I got quickly hired as a freelance writer. It wasn’t a career I had envisioned. I still didn’t see myself as a writer, and I hadn’t thought anyone would hire a non-native English speaker as a writer.
About 9 years later, I have published two books, coached several hundred people, and created a portfolio of popular writing courses.
How did I become a writer?
When I was growing up, my teachers and parents gave me the impression I wasn’t good at writing. I wasn’t creative, and it wasn’t something I could learn.
These negative messages stuck with me for many years.
But talent is overrated. I was far more capable of acquiring new skills than I realized.
Why am I sharing this?
I’d like to tell you that you don’t need to feel like a writer. You can just write.
We all write, don’t we?
Whether it’s emails, social media updates, blog posts, sales pages, or books. Each piece of writing, no matter how tiny, is an opportunity to share our thoughts and to create something that didn’t exist before.
As Stephen Fry suggested:
We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I am going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.
You don’t need to call yourself a writer. You can just write.
A remarkable transformation
When I quit my job in 2012, writing was a challenging, stressful task. I was full of doubts, and I often procrastinated all day before I finally sat down to write.
I don’t know why I persisted.
But slowly, I learned to make peace with my inner critic. I learned to sit with my fears, and to move forward regardless. I learned to tiptoe through the hard parts of writing.
In the last 3 years, I have struggled with low energy. I’ve worked only two hours per day, as my body is healing from trauma.
Somehow, writing became the most joyful part of my days. It didn’t matter if I was slow, anxious, exhausted, or foggy all day. While writing, I felt alive. I felt connected to the best part of myself.
And I always imagined you—yes, you!—were cheering me on. You encouraged me to keep writing and to keep showing up. You helped me feel safe and alive. Thank you.
Am I now a writer?
Perhaps. I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. I write and I love writing.
I’d like to tell you this …
It doesn’t matter whether you feel like a writer or not. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are. How tired or energetic. How fearful or courageous. How doubtful or confident.
You can write. You can learn to write better, to share your ideas, to educate, inspire, and connect with your readers.
No one is born a writer.
But we’re all human, and we all have stories, experiences, and wisdom to share.
Happy writing, my friend, and thank you for reading.
Recommended reading on becoming a writer:
How to learn copywriting (on a shoestring budget)
How I made peace with my inner critic
How to make writing easier
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