It might seem obvious to anyone who reads any or all of my blogs that I love to write. But actually, I have been a bit slow to realize just how much writing means to me. A few weeks ago I went to a two-day meeting of my entrepreneur school. One of my favorite parts of the event is when we do a masterminding session where we break up into groups of eight to facilitate an exchange of ideas. Each person gets 20 minutes to discuss what their goals are for the next 120 days and where they could use some help. This masterminding is both a brainstorming session and a coaching session on steroids because you have the perspective and intuition of seven other people to help guide you.
It was my turn and we were discussing my new coaching book and how some others in our group who had also written a book were going on promotional book tours, when I suddenly burst into tears. I could hardly articulate what was going on. But the more I vocalized what was happening internally the more it was clear to me and to every other person at the table just how passionate I am about writing. But to be more precise, the tears revealed just how passionate I feel to be a writer.
A few days after the event, one of my mastermind team sent me an electronic invitation that she had received from her alma mater Manhattanville College. In just a few weeks they were having a Saturday MFA Writing Day event. I signed up even though I had butterflies that stayed with me all the way up to the day of the event this past weekend. And yet pushing myself into it and allowing the fear was, of course, worth it. My passion knew better than me that I would find something important that day. And I did indeed. Sitting with a group of about twenty-five—all but one were women—I found camaraderie and learning. We wrote given cues, like a single sentence to spark a short story, we shared and discussed our work and we talked about what it means to be a writer. The love and support was reassuring and empowering. We were encouraged to all embrace the label of writer, published or not.
The term writer holds a lot of weight in our society. And describing something as a passion is equally weighty. One of my current mentors, Fabienne Fredrickson uses the term unique brilliance to describe something that you do well and would do all day long for free. It is a passion. I have been writing blogs for years now even though I haven’t been paid for writing them. And writing has been in my life for years though I have used the term dabbling in the past to describe my involvement. There was the memoir-writing course at The Learning Annex, and there was the improv class at The Upright Citizens Brigade where I enjoyed creating monologues off the cuff. In my corporate roles I was always giving presentations that I wrote. And before that I published research articles in psychology journals when I was in academia. Most recently I was writing love-story weddings.
But somehow I discounted any of this as writing and somehow I never allowed myself to identify as a writer. In part because there was such a clear format and structure as defined by the APA (American Psychological Association), my journal articles didn’t feel like writing. Although I was a published author, I didn’t consider myself to be a writer. A psychologist yes, but not a writer. The purpose (presenting research results) outweighed the form (writing). But as I gaze back at what I did for so many years, I realize that I was writing, was a writer, and will always be a writer. Regardless of the structure, style, form or purpose, whether fiction or non-fiction, I write.
It occurs to me that my passion for writing was both something that grew over time and something that has always been a part of me. However, I felt great fear and vulnerability sharing my writing so I stayed clear of it for many years. As a girl I felt very inadequate as a reader and a writer. I am not sure where my uncertainty came from, but I presumed that I was good at math and science but no good at English, even if my grades were fine in both. It wasn’t until high school that I discovered my love of literature and then in college that I learned I loved writing essays. I still have some of my Berkeley cognitive psychology reports that in hindsight feel so similar to what I enjoy doing to this day: riffing on some topic.
I am to thank one of my coaches, Melanie Dewberry Jones, for pushing me out of my writing comfort zone after I brought up wanting to write when we spoke a few years ago. It felt more like a push off of the cliff when she challenged me to start a blog and publish my thoughts in two weeks’ time. I probably got silent in response but I took the challenge and created my first blog. I remember with great clarity how scared I was the very first time I hit the ”publish” button and it was for real. I physically felt the vulnerability of exposing myself, my thoughts and of course my writing. I felt like I was coming out of the writer’s closet.
To this day, I still get a tummy tumble when I am about to post a blog, and even as I just sit here and think about sharing this piece. And yet, the passion to express through writing overrules any fears. After the masterminding session I left processing everything but not really thinking about next steps for writing. Then ideas began to flow. I want to create more books and I want to attempt some poetry and fiction—not just the coaching/advice and memoir non-fiction that I tend towards. I realized this morning that my love for psychology and philosophy is intimately tied to my love of writing. I am curious about the world and people and the mind and my way to explore that fascination is through writing. Making sense out of life drives my writing. Reading and devouring ideas gives me ammunition for my own ideas and perspective. I can’t not write just like I can’t not think.
Deep in my heart I still feel like a fraud at times. How can I say I am a writer when I wasn’t born writing stories like so many writers? Does starting later in life invalidate it somehow, even though there are many authors who started writing later? Who do I need to prove to that I’ve been writing for years? And yet all that doubt won’t keep me from writing. It won’t prevent me from working harder, learning through writing and though courses and through reading and testing the process and pushing to write fiction and poetry and whatever pours out of me. I am a writer. It is a passion.