Go Ahead – Call Yourself a Writer By Heidi Smith Luedtke, PhD

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When former colleagues, friends or family members asked what I was doing since I left my “real job,” I struggled to say “I’m a writer” or a journalist or even a freelancer. It felt premature to call myself a writer when I had yet to sell a single word. And even after I’d published several articles in regional magazines, the title of writer felt fraudulent – it’s not like I’d penned a bestseller.

I meet lots of people online and at conferences who aren’t comfortable calling themselves writers. “I’m a lawyer. But I write at night,” one says. “I haven’t found an agent,” another confides, “but I’ve written two novels already.” Some really prolific writers appear almost apologetic for aspiring to be published authors.

As a personality psychologist, I understand the angst people feel about claiming an identity undeservedly. The words author and writer evoke romanticized, idealized images. And I think most writers continue to feel a little insecure even when we’re doing all the things (real) writers do.

I’ve published articles in more than 80 magazines and I still get queasy calling myself a writer. But claiming the title of writer has benefits that outweigh my anxieties. When I tell people I’m a writer, they ask me what I’ve written. That allows me to highlight my platform without being pushy or self-centered. I gain blog and twitter followers. High-school friends and former students are some of my biggest fans.

When I tell people I’m a writer, they introduce me to other writers. I expand my professional and social-support networks. Friendships with other writers make my work less lonely and more productive. I’m inspired by others’ success.

When I tell people I am a writer, they bring me copies of their favorite magazines. I discover markets I’d never find on my own.

When I tell people I am a writer, I commit myself to the craft and business of writing. I feel and act more professional. I write through the times when the words just don’t flow. I chop out ideas that worked better in my head than they do in my article. I regroup and re-target rejected queries. I follow up with editors. I do the things that writers do, because that’s what I am.

Heidi Smith Luedtke, Ph.D., is a personality psychologist turned full-time freelancer whose work has appeared in more than 80 magazines, including Parents, Pregnancy & Newborn, Costco Connection and Arthritis Today. She’s a regular contributor to Military Spouse magazine and milspouse.com. Heidi shares life lessons from the science of psychology at www.HeidiLuedtke.com/blog.

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