The Importance of Calling Yourself a Writer

By Alissa Johnson

To kick off the new year, I went backcountry skiing with my main man and some friends. I've been wanting to ski in this particular area for a long time, because I know the terrain is moderate and I drive by it every time I go back and forth to Durango.

Whereas the day before had been a bluebird Colorado day, Saturday dawned cloudy. As we skinned up (hiking uphill on your skis, with fabric on the bottom to give you traction), it started to snow. By the time we called it, forgoing our destination and skiing back down, it was also blowing wind and visibility was poor. As the clouds moved in and out around us, the mountain peaks moved in and out of sight.

Normally, I would have felt self-conscious at this point. I'm a decent skier, but I started skiing in my 30s and I don't have a lot of this type of experience. With the visibility and snow conditions, I knew I'd be anything but graceful on the way back down--and here I was with four guys who've been skiing their whole lives. Seriously, you should see Pete on skis; they're like an extension of his body.

In the past, I also would have considered my companions skiers, but I wouldn't have applied that name to myself. I'm not as good, so how can the same word apply to me? 

But as we snacked on oranges and chocolate, and I looked at our surroundings--the exposed rock of the ridge line above us, dried brown grass poking up out of the snow--I saw it differently. I was in those mountains with them. I'd driven us to the trailhead, gotten my gear ready, hiked right along with them, and would ski myself (with some guidance on reading terrain) back down the mountain.

Am I an expert? Nope.

Do I have a heck of a lot to learn? Yep. But... so what? 

There's this funny thing people do (myself included) when it comes to titles. We ascribe them to only the most successful people. You're a skier if you go out every chance you get, have been doing it your whole life, or win competitions. You're a writer if you're extensively published (national level is, of course, best and regional or local is suspect at best). 

I've started to believe that every time we give a title we want (and actively pursue) to someone else but not ourselves, we give a little piece of ourselves away. Energetically, it seems to suggest we don't have the faith or belief in our own abilities. 

Try this on for size: If you think of yourself as a writer, you're more likely to act like one.

It doesn't matter if you're still learning how to do it well. It doesn't matter if you're still trying to publish. It doesn't matter if you never want to publish. 

If this is something you've ever struggled with, here's what I invite you to do:

Freewrite about all the things you've done as a writer.

Things you've written, classes you've taken, newsletters you've subscribed to.

If you feel like the list is too short? Freewrite about why you write. Reconnect with that desire because it can fuel you forward.

I'd love to hear what you find! Let me know in the comments below or join the conversation on the Facebook page.

P.S. Wish writing could be easier? Learn how it can be with my FREE three-part series, Inside the Writer's Mind. You can learn how to end the struggle and work with yourself today.