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2023 was a formative year for me as a writer. Through publishing my first magazine article in February, to investing in a mentorship program with an editor to complete the first draft of my book, to grappling with how I perceive myself as a writer and how that impacts my future endeavors, I’ve learned many lessons and discovered many truths about myself that shaped who I am as a writer and the writer I’m becoming.
Here are six things I’ve learned about myself as a writer in 2023.
I. My perfectionism is ruining my progress
It’s a funny thing about people: we want to present ourselves in the best possible light, even to those who are there to help us. We want our finances in order before sitting with a financial advisor. We want to pretend we don’t have issues when we go to our first therapy session.
Embarrassingly, I’m the exact same with my writing. I want every word to be perfect before submitting my work to an editor. And this, among other issues around my perception of my abilities as a wordsmith, is why getting my book into the world is taking longer than I thought. I stare at the blank page, willing utter perfection to spill from my brain, through the keys and onto the page.
But it doesn’t happen that way. And I’ll only make progress if I put my perfectionism to rest and just write.
II. I can write but I can’t teach writing
I thought helping the kids at my church to put together a monthly newsletter would be a cinch. After all, I’m a writer. How hard could it be?
Extremely hard, it turns out. I may have the internal know-how for why this sentence sounds better than that one, or how to organize my ideas into a coherent outline and then a published piece, but I have no earthly idea how to transfer my knowledge to someone else.
I’m trying, but I feel entirely inadequate. I just pray that the kids are picking up something from my feeble attempts. But truthfully: they don’t need much help. Their articles have been wonderful and I’m proud to be involved in the process [even if I feel like I haven’t contributed much].
III. People I know might read my writing
I arrived at my volunteer job one December morning, ready to map out next month’s schedule and social media posts, when the volunteer coordinator [and my friend], said: “Rhianna, I saw your article in Christian Courier this morning.”
I was shocked. Though I knew the paper was distributed nationally, I’d somehow never expected my words to reach the small town where I live. Part of me was ecstatic that someone had read and appreciated my article but the other part of me was terrified. It taught me an important lesson:
People in my day-to-day life might read what I write, so be careful and be wise with what I say.
IV. Just because I can write doesn’t mean I can speak
Ask me to explain the rules of a card game or the plot of a novel that I’m reading, and what you’ll get is a disorganized ramble. It’s even worse when attempting to explain a concept I’m passionate about–like apologetics; the fear of facing questions that I may not know how to answer is paralyzing and all that comes out is gibberish.
Yet, I’ve been told more times than I can count that the fact that I can write should mean that my verbal communication skills are of the same caliber.
They aren’t. And while I’m working on developing speaking skills, I may have to resign myself to the reality that my talents are better used on the page than on the stage.
V. There are people who don’t consider writing a career
Without trying to speculate about the reasons, I’ve come to realize that some people will never view my writing as a career. They may consider it a hobby, a pastime or a side hustle. But not a career.
It doesn’t bear traditional hours nor steady income. I don’t go to an office nor do I always have regular work to keep me busy. I can understand why it may not seem like a “real job,” but nonetheless, it is “real” and it does “count,” and knowing that people in my life may not consider it so, hurts. But it’s merely something I will have to learn to manage and not let slow down my writing dreams.
VI. The written word has immense power
This may be a factor in my perfectionism problem, but with each piece of mine that gets published, I’m more aware of the potential power my words hold. Writing holds an authority that the spoken word doesn’t. If I am to use my God-given talent for writing to glorify the Lord, I need to be conscious and pray that what I write serves that purpose. I want to uplift, not tear down, to encourage, not diminish.
My words have the power to do either. It’s a sobering thought and at times, the pressure has been destabilizing. Yet, I remind myself that if this is God’s plan for my life, He will help me accomplish it. He has more power than I’ll ever have, and that’s immensely comforting when I find myself overwhelmed.
What did you learn about yourself, either personally or professionally, in 2023? How will you take that knowledge into 2024?
A little goes a long way! If you get something out of what I write and want to support the person behind the page–ahem, me–it would mean the world. You can support on a one-time or recurring basis through Buy Me a Coffee, or contact me for other ways to give.
Your support enables me to continue writing and fulfilling my mission of challenging the Church to see disabled people the way Jesus does. This includes the [boring] but essential costs of website hosting, domain renewal and more, but also as income so that I can contribute financially to my family and make my passion for writing a fulfilling and sustainable career.
Thanks for reading!
Rhianna McGregor Hajzer