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Ending the “Writer, But…” Syndrome

Today I did something I’ve always dreamed about, something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid but never, ever thought possible.

I quit my job to be a writer.

If this was a text message, right about now is where I’d insert the vomiting emoji.

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

I’ve been an employee for over 25 years, 13 of which have been in fundraising. I was 16 when I got my first job — a weekends-only gig processing checks at a bank. It was as dry and boring as it sounds, but it paid well, so I stuck with it for seven long years.

Once out of college, I bounced around a variety of fields, from advertising and film/television, to theatre and music. But it was only recently — when I moved cross-country and my career hit a bit of a wall — that I realized the through-line of many of my occupations has been writing.

I love to write. I journal constantly. I’ve raised millions through grant proposals. I’ve crafted press releases for film festivals, programs for choral concerts, and annual reports for nonprofits.

And yet, until now, I never considered myself a capital-W, legit Writer. I was more of a “writer, but.”

“Sure, I’m a writer, but just a grant writer.”
“Yes, I write, but only in my journal.”
“I like writing, but simply for fun.”

Maybe it was fear, maybe Imposter Syndrome, maybe naivete, but I never thought I could be a Writer. The term Writer only applies to other people, I figured, those Stephen Kings of the world who have been doing this forever. In my mind, those people were born penning memorable novels. It’s effortless for them, right? At least, that’s what I told myself.

I’ve let this notion that they are Writers and I’m merely a “writer, but” take hold of my life for far too long. Today, that ends. I’m challenging myself to be a Writer, period. No buts.

Photo by Peter Fogden on Unsplash

I don’t know how this next stage of my life will go. I might love it. I might find dozens of clients and make loads of money and in my spare time author a hugely successful novel. Or, I might crash and burn, just another failed writer who didn’t know to appreciate her day job when she had one.

But, regardless of the outcome, no one can say that I didn’t try, that I didn’t attempt to pursue my dream. And that has to count for something.


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