A friend of mine mentioned something about being "a real writer now" over the weekend, and it got me thinking. First, I already think of that person as a real writer since they've written for this blog and multiple articles and so on. But second, I understand what they're talking about. There's a big difference between being a thing and feeling like a thing. I believe the process of feeling real can be helped along, though, and here's some ideas of how I've helped myself (and others) move along.
- Keep a list of your accomplishments. Got retweeted by someone you admire? Received a compliment from a tough to please patron? Finished a small but important project? Write it down or keep it in a special folder on your email. I literally have a folder called "happy making" on my main gmail account.
- Speak kindly to yourself. Negative self-talk is such a hard habit to break. Believe me: I know. I've mostly broken this habit, however, by imagining I'm saying those things to someone I love. I'd never tell a good friend, "you'll never amount to anything because you made this mistake." Of course I wouldn't! Instead, I'd say something like, "well, you screwed up, but you're human. How do we repair the damage for you and move forward?" If you stop insulting yourself, maybe you can even start complimenting yourself and then believing in yourself.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. This is another idea that is easier said than done, but even a small victory with this can make a big difference. There are schools with bigger budgets and staffs; there are people younger than you with publishing contracts; there are blogs with broader readership. Besides, you only see the end result when you see the accomplishments of others. You don't see all the mistakes they made or the struggles along the way.
- Get yourself a cheering section. Simply put, I have a great group of friends who aren't afraid to call me on it when I make mistakes, but who are also quick with support. They're peer mentors and sounding boards. Friendships like this take work, so I provide the same kind of support for them. In fact, when I was trying to figure out how to talk about this, a member of my cheering section said, "You have good friends because you are awesome, so maybe go w/ MLP and friendship is magic?" And they were right. If you're an aspiring writer, court friendships with other writers. Artist? Seek out other artists. Librarian? Find other librarians. I'm sometimes humbled by the support I get, but I'm always honored by their love.
This all comes down to learning to feel comfortable when you're not in your comfort zone. Being new at something, learning and trying new things, can be hard. It's also hard to feel "real" in those endeavors, but it is possible. Be gentle with yourself and keep working on it.
Anything helpful I forgot that you've done in the past?