On being a writer, and owning it

Being a writerI ordered a new box of business cards this week. My favourite annual blogging event, Blogtacular, is just around the corner and getting my business cards in order is a big part of the preparation ritual.

(Along with selecting an outfit, charging all the batteries, and supressing my introvert fear at the prospect of meeting a lot of new people).

This year, I’ve made a small but subtle change to my cards. Underneath my name, each card now reads ‘writer and content creator’.

Considering that not so long ago I used to introduce myself to people as a ‘former scientist’, this is a huge step forward. This self-deprecating statement used to appear all over my online presence, a slightly mocking suggestion that I had already failed at something. (It didn’t appear on my business cards; on those I left my career skills to the imagination).

Even though I completed my PhD over four years ago and have been working as a professional writer, communicator, and master of websites ever since, somehow I felt the need to continue defining myself and my work by this one career landmark.

I’m still incredibly proud of attaining my PhD in biology, and to this day pedantically insist on being referred to as doctor by everyone from the Inland Revenue to the spam phone callers telling my I’ve won a speedboat. But the time has come to step away from the ‘former scientist’ label, and properly embrace my identity as a writer. I didn’t ‘fail’ at being a scientist, I just moved on to the next stage of my life and my work.

Naturally, even such a small change as a new line on my business cards was riddled with feelings of imposter syndrome. Would anyone even take me seriously as a writer? I’ve never had anything published. This isn’t something I can really do, and everyone is going to see that. Ah anxiety, you total a**hole.

With my professional woman ego on, I force myself remember that of course I get taken seriously as a writer. Haven’t I been employed as one for the past four years? Not to mention working in digital content through blogging for the best part of a decade. And I’ve been published, both in print and online, and not just on my own website. Finally, wordplay and storytelling are the only things in this life that have ever come to me naturally. I may not be a confident driver, or able to light a fire, or put up shelves, but I can always string together a good sentence.

The time has come to own my work, and my career. On the surface all it takes is a small tweak to a business card, a minor adjustment to networking patter. Mentally, the distance to cover is so much more significant. Sayonara my imposter friend, I’m going to do this with or without you.

If I have one tip for anyone it is to celebrate our past glories, and treasure them (even if that’s as simple as insisting that the PPI telephone spam robot call you Dr instead of Mrs). But don’t let them continue to define who you are and what you do now, because you never know how that might be holding you back.

What do you think?

  • Fantastic post!! Switch scientist for lawyer in my case and I could have written this, except not so well I don’t think…you do indeed string a lovely sentence together and should proudly call yourself a writer! 🙂 x

  • Lots of familiar selftalk/feelings here. I’ve recently been feeling imposter syndrome and – like you – dealt with it bytalking about it online (I used IG). I reckoned if someone readin it felt led alone it was worth the soul-baring!

    Julie (fellow writer/introvert/nervous driver)

    • I completely agree – there is so much love and support to be found in our online communities, and Instagram is one of the best for communing with fellow introverts and imposter syndrome sufferers. There is always someone who shares your experiences!

  • Love this! I’ve been a lawyer for the last 5+ years and it’s only really been this year that I’ve felt confident enough to say “I’m a lawyer” rather than muttering something vague about working “in the city”. I’ve always felt like a fraud saying it (even if my business card has for quite a while!). I’ve always known you as a blogger so thinking of you as a writer to me feels 100% right! x

    • Aw, thank you! It feels very empowering to be able to own our career achievements and put a name to them. And clearly it’s something that we all need to do more often! I think when we first me you introduced yourself as a lawyer 🙂 x