Stake Your Claim

According to an article in the July/August issue of Writer’s Digest, writers have a difficult time calling themselves writers. There’s something about claiming a title that demands that you make it true. I’m guessing the phenomenon exists in other fields as well, but I’ll start by addressing my fellow addicts to pen or pencil and paper before moving on to other passions.

Go ahead. Say it out loud. Practice in front of a mirror if you need to. “I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer.” The truth is if you write, you are a writer. If you have been published, you are a published writer. If you do a blog, you are a blog writer. If you have a book out, you are a book writer. If you write, you are a writer. Practice the words until you can say them without stuttering, “I am a writer.”

Truth to tell, it took me a while to get brave enough to include those words as I introduced myself. I had figuratively dipped my pen in the inkwell and had a few things out with my byline before we moved to Hattiesburg. Retired from teaching to pursue writing, I sensed that saying the words out loud would cement them in my own mind. My first introduction of myself as writer came in a place that would soon figure strongly in my life.

In my first visit to the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, Ann Ashmore welcomed me and introduced herself. I said the words, “I’m Virginia Butler. I am a writer.” I did not faint. She did not raise her eyebrows or look knowingly at me as though I was claiming something I could not deliver. It wasn’t that hard, and her reaction helped me become comfortable with my introduction. I had business cards made with “working writer” on them. Now I needed to buckle down and prove that it was true. Several more bylines and an even greater stack of rejection letters lend validity to my claim, but it is the daily wordsmithing that is the proof.

Whatever your dream, try saying it out loud – first to yourself where nobody can hear until you can speak it without stuttering. I use “writer” in this blog because that’s my passion, but the idea works for artist, dancer, carpenter – for any passion that comes in the form of a dream – perhaps it’s how the noted butcher, baker, and candlestick maker of the old nursery rhyme became who they were. Then back your claim with daily practice to prove your declaration is true.