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This Is The Work Blog by Alex J Brown
  • Writer's pictureAlex J Brown

The First Step to Becoming a Writer

I was over a year in to the first “big kid” job I’d ever had, which was simultaneously the worst job I’ve ever had, and I knew that something needed to change. Drastically, and fast.

It was a slow build that came crashing down on me in a wave of desperation, and what I knew above all else was this: There was no way this path was going to lead to happiness. It had spent the past year draining me of my joy, and I let it.

I let it because I needed to. Without giving it permission to rattle me, I would not have gotten to the place I’m in now. No regrets. But there we were.

As I was mired in fear of uncertainty and change, trying to figure out what was next, I took a long hard look at my values, and what I wanted out of my life.

If I could be anything, what would I be?

When a mentor asked me that very question, the truth poured out of me as if it had been awaiting its opportunity for years:

I want to be a writer.

The answer shocked even me, and then, it didn't surprise me at all. From my youngest years, putting words on the page is what kept me going. It’s what allowed me to find some comfort in solitude. To process things I was unable to say out loud. My relationship to writing saved my life. My relationship to creativity created me.

I was convinced that I let my inspiration die due to my inability to give it space to breathe. I was convinced I had nothing important to say anymore. The ties were severed. My creativity had packed its bags long ago, and moved on to someone who would treat it better.

What's more: Deep down, I believed I could never actually be A WRITER.

You know, the kind that makes a living from it. The kind that gets noticed and recognized. No...that’s not a life I could live. I’m not skilled enough. Not known enough. Not savvy enough. Not formally trained enough. Not original enough. The downsides would be too great, and the risks, too big to stake my survival on. Funny, how when we look for reasons not to do things that are scary, we always seem to find them in abundance.

The truth is, I was operating on the mistaken belief that to be a writer, I had to have a career in writing. I had to get paid. I had to get discovered. I had to develop a reputation with the world through my words. And there is nothing wrong with this. It’s still something I want for myself. To live and breathe creativity as a profession that sustains me? To make an impact on other people through the transmission of ideas?

Sign. Me. Up.

The truth is, I didn’t have to start there, or end up there, to get what I wanted. What I wanted was to reconnect to my creative core. What I wanted was to live a creative life. What I wanted was to align my behaviors with my values. I misplaced something important to me, central to me, and I wanted it back, damn it.

That same mentor who asked me the what I wanted to be also recommended that I start calling myself exactly that. Wearing it like a badge of honor. Weaving it in to my skin. Even if I didn’t feel worthy of the title, I had to say it to myself: I am a writer.

At first, it was much easier to call myself a fraud, but then I started noticing myself saying it in conversations with people. Matter-of-fact. I am a writer.

Can you guess what happened next?

I got to work. I made a little time and space for creation, then more. I held myself accountable for it by developing a blog. And it was not easy, because inspiration was nowhere to be found at the outset. I felt blocked, and I felt stagnant. I wanted (expected) more from myself. I wanted (expected) it to come naturally, immediately. And it didn't, because...

We are not entitled to creative flow. We work, and it arrives when it finds us working.

I wrote poems and letters to my inspiration, pleading with it to return. I made promises to give it the attention it deserves. I made declarations of my readiness and willingness to prioritize creativity. It was all I could do, and no, I didn’t think it was great writing. But it was writing. I was writing.

And then, inspiration would poke its head in. And a blog post would come out of it. Or a song. Or a poem. Little by little, bit by bit. And then it was every day. Every single day, I would create something. It became a habit. A practice. A part of me.

I still have a workweek. My new job involves creativity, but it's not in creative writing. I enjoy my work, I do my work, I leave my work at my desk, and I go home. And I write. And I spend time with my friends. And I cook and laugh and feel and breathe and exist.

The changes to my day to day are not drastic. I have the same amount of hours, and I spend many of them the same way I always have. It was the pivot toward my creative self that made all the difference. And it started with a simple declaration.

The other day I was taking a walk with my friend, and we were discussing creativity. I could feel my heart swell. I could feel my spirit lift in excitement about what it means to bring things in to the world that didn't exist before. To capture a feeling. To tell a story. To make sense of pain or joy or grace or humanity. To memorialize an experience. To breathe life in to an idea. And just like that, in the middle of this conversation, the words rushed out of my mouth in a fit of passion:

I love being a writer.

This, friends. This is the point. This is the reason. This feeling. This truth. This is what we work for. We don't need anything else. The rest is icing on the cake.

Vincent van Gogh wrote, Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together. Do your small things, and do them with intention. Tell the world who and what you are. You are worth that. You are worth prioritizing what matters. You are worth the pivots needed (and possible in this moment) to align your life with your spirit. You are worth one step, and then another. I guarantee it.

So, I will leave you with this...

If you could be anything, what would you be?


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