“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Eight years ago, I started a blog about my life as a twenty-something New Yorker. I did it because a new friend had introduced me to her blog and I thought, I want to do that. But while she was a bona fide writer—journalism major in college, editor of her school paper, freelance pieces in real print magazines—I had never even admitted to anyone that I wanted to write. I was as terrified as I was determined so I cloaked myself in a pen name and pushed “publish”, knowing that whatever writing goals I had lived on the opposite side of fear.
Ten months later, blogging had become old hat. I loved it, but I was no longer scared when I published a new post. I was ready for a new challenge. And so I signed up for my first NaNoWriMo, announcing it on my blog for a little extra push of accountability. It was my first step toward declaring myself (or at least my intention to become) a “real” writer. Ultimately, I didn’t win NaNo that year, but it pushed me outside my comfort zone and gave me the boost I needed to sign up for my first writing class. Two years later, I did win NaNo, with a novel that became part of my master’s thesis.
Five years later, I’ve become much more comfortable identifying myself as a writer. Not as a profession (not yet) but definitely as an identity. It’s just part of who I am. The question I ask myself is no longer “am I a real writer” but instead, “how can I be a better writer”. And one thing I know for sure is that I get better by challenging myself. By doing things that scare me. The writing itself doesn’t scare me anymore. Neither does telling people that I’m a writer. But letting people read my writing? That still terrifies me. And so that’s exactly what I decided to do.
Last week, I posted the first chapter of my WIP on Wattpad and I plan to post a new chapter once a week until the novel is complete. Not only that, but I’m not hiding behind a pen name this time. The cover I designed includes my real name. The author photo is my real face. Every single day since I posted it, I’ve thought of a reason to take it down. But I haven’t. Because I know this is the next step I need to take. Even though it scares the crap out of me.