“What do you write?” she asked. How could I say it with confidence, I wondered.
Standing in the bustling bookstore on Indie Bookstore Day, I searched for an answer for the young woman who introduced herself by way of our connection, “I saw you on LWS.”
“Really?!” I was surprised. I wondered to myself, In an online group of international writers, what are the chances of two of us being in the same county? It was weird but really cool.
I stammered, “Ummm… mostly blog posts, really.” What a stupid answer, my inner voice (Gertie Gremlin) smirked. No confidence in that answer.
She smiled and nodded. I continued, unsure of where the next words came from, but they were the only bit of confidence I felt.
“I’ve realized, that though I love to write, my real writing passion is helping others write.”
The young woman smiled.
Feelings washed over me. Could she see them? I felt like a writing fraud, unworthy of talking about writing with a fellow writer. Or being part of a writers’ group. (though I host them!) I couldn’t say clearly what I was writing, but I felt clarity about my purpose. “My real passion is helping others write.” I had not articulated that in the two years since leaving teaching full-time to become a business owner. And though the lightbulb lit up, the negative felt bigger than the positive. I didn’t answer the simple question, What do you write? We are our own worst critics, aren’t we?
Turn the focus
I redirected, genuinely interested and shifting away from me to focus on this new friend’s writing and on THOSE mixed feelings later. I asked, “What do you write?”
She dove excitedly into a detailed description of her first book, still in the manuscript stage. It was fascinating! Both the story and her palpable excitement.
“I love how fiction writers can keep all those details straight!” I said when she took a breath. She smiled and went on. It was fantastic! When she paused again, I compared her character’s journey to a story that recently unfolded in my own life. (It’s what I do… connect events to tell stories.) We had a good laugh. I suggested that perhaps her main character “would return, too.”
“Oh, she does!” she beamed.
Clarity leads to saying it with confidence
It was a brief conversation that felt like a slap and a hug at the same time.
I needed the slap to remind me to say it with confidence. This is a weird place to be after answering the question What do you do? for nearly 30 years, with “I’m an educator, coach, and teacher mentor.” Now, as a full-time business owner who writes, designs, creates, and facilitates, I struggle to say “I’m a ________” or “I do ________”. I stumble through descriptions that never feel complete. Or… succinct.
Full disclosure: Maybe this is a lack of clarity on branding or messaging. I’m still learning. But here’s the thing— despite the self-imposed slap, the ‘hug’ was cool. “Whoa! We connected in our local community via LWS. What a small world!”
Now I realize it’s okay to say I teach the process of creative writing to adults and teens (something I’ve done for 20+ years) while also sharing with confidence what I’m writing: creative nonfiction, a few book ideas, online articles, blog posts, and resources + workshop materials to help others discover the power of creative, personal writing and wordplay for self-care and growth.” Boom!
Turns out, it was a good day for a slap and a hug!
What do you do? Are you able to say it with confidence?
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