I found this quote floating around facebook:
If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.
Does this tick anybody else off? Why is it artists (or should I say "ar-tee-sts" should be insecure, sensitive ninnies in order to be real? And yet, I see this stereotype (and others like it) from many different sources.
Insecurity and fear do not make a person a writer. Would a architect be scared to death of their craft? Would a scientist go to their friends and ask, "Am I really a scientist?" Why, then, are writers and artists lumped into this neurosis of self-doubt?
Insecurity and fear don't make you a better writer, either. Obviously, hubris is not a good thing, yet there are plenty of writers who have succumbed to that and yet are still writers. However, confidence is definitely a necessary requirement for the writing craft. How else would we ever submit something or even write a blog if we didn't think we were good enough to get read? In fact, the better writers have a lot of self-confidence. What else enables them to accept rejection, shrug it off and move on?
I'm not saying writers are all egoists or that we aren't afraid of making the grade. I have a friend who is an excellent writer. Before meeting with a big NYC agent (who recruited her, no less) she told me that she felt like her story was too stupid to discuss, but that she always felt that way about her stories before they were done. Did she doubt her identity as a writer? Of course not. Even more, she may have had doubts about the story, but they did not paralyze her. She sought his feedback on the story. In the meantime, she WROTE and rewrote and submitted and published and taught writing. That's what writers do when faced with a story or article or book that intimidates them--they write; they edit; they learn what they need to learn. They WORK to be worthy of the story. They don't go around asking their friends for meaningless affirmations.
What's it take to be a writer then? The ability to tell a story. A basic grasp of grammar and story structure. A willingness to learn. Most of all, the dedication to put words on paper and the bravery to send those words to someone else to publish or the gumption to put the real effort into publishing them yourself.
If you find yourself wasting time stressing about whether you are "really a writer" and not writing your stories/books/articles, editing them, getting crits, and submitting them, then you are not a writer. Go find something else that gives you a feeling of identity. And clear the field for those of us who know what we are.