You can’t meet new people in America without someone asking, “so what do you do?” What do you do, as in: what do you do for work, what’s your job, how do you make money?
(Debating what this says about our culture and society is an entirely different conversation.)
I used to hate this question, because I hated my job and felt stuck in it. I also felt extremely disconnected from it — it had nothing to do with who I was as a person. But now I’m happy to answer this question. When people ask, I say, “I’m a writer.”
I’m a writer. It’s who I am. And some days I’m even pretty good at it.
I wish I understood this sooner. I took far too long to own who I am and what I do. In fact, I actively avoided saying, thinking, or believing “I’m a writer.”
Committing to that felt scary. In my mind, it meant never finding a real job or making a living. It meant being unknown and unrecognized for my entire career, struggling to make it just like the countless other people who called themselves writers but produced no work.
Writing for a living seemed as unobtainable as winning the lottery. Sure, someone will win. But the odds of it being you? Forget it.
When I started toying with the idea of quitting my job, I halfheartedly tried to make it as a freelance writer first. It didn’t work out because I didn’t commit to the process. I didn’t own it. And it was almost a relief to switch over to focusing on my harebrained schemes to start lifestyle businesses, because no one expected me to excel as an entrepreneur.
See, that’s the other reason I worked so hard to avoid owning who I was. Other people could clearly see my talents and gifts revolved around using the written word in powerful ways. We’d seen glimpses of what I could do. And that was absolutely terrifying.
What if I tried and everyone realized, oh, no, she’s not so great at this after all? What if I tried and succeeded once — and couldn’t replicate that success again? Both failure and success were equally frightening, so I spent a lot of time avoiding what I was clearly meant to do.
I circled all around the fact that I was a writer, but I never started down that path with serious intentions. Instead, I distracted myself by trying course after course produced by people who made it big and got rich, who promised that I could do the exact same thing if I only shelled out $297 for a seat in their special life-changing online course made of content I could have found if I Googled long enough.
I ended each one of these sessions feeling deflated and confused. Sometimes, I was downright angry that I paid for a class that promised so much and left me with so little. What about all the glowing testimonials about how this training landed someone fifteen gazillion new clients? About someone else went from broke and miserable to rolling in profit and walking-on-sunshine happy with life?
I thought very mean thoughts about these self-proclaimed experts — which fit nicely into my efforts to avoid admitting what I knew deep down. It was someone else’s fault I wasn’t excelling in the way I very badly wanted to.
But the real problem rested with me. I was a writer, and no one could teach me that. There was no reason for me to invest so much into programs that promised to show me how to build a thriving lifestyle business or make $5,000+ per month after working through content that amounted to one hour’s worth of reading.
I floundered because I refused to embrace my calling. It was up to me to accept who I was and start owning it. And I didn’t. I chose to blame others, mutter stuff under my breath, and waste time fiddling around with work that belonged to someone else instead of showing up to do my own.
It took two years and a lot of flip-flopping around, trying different things, and putting on different job titles before the lightbulb went off. When I gave myself permission to just write, I started to create meaningful work. And I started to create good work.
Which is still terrifying to say. I’m thrilled I finally found the courage to stand up and claim my place in this world, but it’s risky. There’s something I need to live up to now — and though it’s scary, it’s also exhilarating. I’m excited to do my job. I’m excited to write.
I’m a writer. It’s who I am. And I’m really good at this. This is my thing.
And I hope you feel ready to embrace your thing, too. What is that thing? Who are you meant to be? How will you rock it and own who you are, and what you’re meant to do?
Just keep in mind those key words: this is your thing. It’s what you do.
You won’t find success by pouring your time and energy into replicating someone else’s experience. Feel free to tune out any guru who says, “I did this thing and now you can go and do this thing if you pay me to tell you how I did the thing.”
We all have our own thing. Rock it and create your own path. Sure, you can use ideas from others who found their own success, but don’t try and replicate their success exactly. Don’t base your purpose off a template of someone else’s experience. Purchasing blueprints that explain, “here’s what I did” doesn’t work — because that’s just rehashing someone else’s journey. It doesn’t help you map out your own.
Yes, you can do anything. But doing anything just because someone else seems to be having some success at it is an insult to your reason for being here and the important work we need you to do. Be bold and forge your own path.
Declaring yourself as anything is scary. But if it’s who you are, you must own it. Don’t avoid it, run away from it, or downplay it.
I’m a writer. That’s what I do and who I am.
Who are you?
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