(You can also read this post as published on Thrive Global!)
I’m a writer.
I’m other things, too, of course. I’m a marketer. I’m an MBA. I’m a Real Housewives junkie and, as of recently, I’m a blogger. But the longest, self-selected title I’ve held throughout my life is Writer.
As a Writer, I tend to admire and – if I’m lucky – form special bonds with other Creative Souls who have similarly self-selected titles. Singers. Designers. Performers. One of my best friends is a Dancer. He’s a major deal who’s danced for presidents and has his own dance company and interprets his life through the lens of his passion every single day. It’s magical to watch and even more magical to know personally.
We talk A LOT about who we are.
Not too long ago, we were having another one of our chats. The kind of chats we’ve been having since high school. I was in the middle of talking about the Finding-A-Literary-Agent Process, which sucks for all Writers, which is exhausting both mentally and (somehow) physically, which makes you start to wonder about weird things like whether your title looks better in all-caps or sentence case, or if you actually even know how to form a sentence at all. In response, he started telling me about his emotional equivalent as a Dancer – the feelings that swirl around trying out for show after show or part after part and, then, not getting it. And he told me that something he started to realize a long time ago was that his job, as a Dancer, was NOT to book jobs. His job, as a Dancer, was to audition.
And then that translated to the following suggestion from him to me: That my job, as a Writer, is NOT to land an agent. My job, as a Writer, is to submit.
Per usual (whenever another amazing person in my life says something amazing), my mind was blown, I momentarily wondered why everyone around me kind of talks like a fortune cookie, and then I iterated, reinterpreted, and bounced the following idea back at him:
Maybe our jobs as Dancers and Writers aren’t to audition or submit at all. Maybe our jobs, quite simply, are to Dance and Write.
So here’s my thing: a Singer, by definition, is a person who sings. A Runner, a person who runs. A Dreamer, a person who dreams. We hesitate to proclaim that those are the things that we are – that we deserve those titles – because we get scared about what we’ll say when the World says, “Prove it.” We feel dumb, or embarrassed, or loser-ish when we can’t point to our single on iTunes, or that marathon we crushed, so we hesitate. We say it softly, if at all. We preface it with “I want to be” or “I’m trying to be” when the truth is that we already are.
This is what Vincent Van Gogh said:
So, to all of you, this is what I hope you’ll realize:
If you want to be a Painter, you don’t need anyone’s permission. You don’t need any validation. You don’t need a Sistine Chapel. You just need to paint. A lot. Every day, if you can. But it starts with the first day; with the very first act. It can start, quite literally, right now.
You are what you say you are, not what the World says you are. So say it. Don’t whisper it. SAY IT. Believe in what you are, and the rest of us will follow.
Tell us who you are and, before you know it, we will listen.