By Christa MacDonald
In the news recently an actor who had been on a successful TV show was seen working at a grocery store. Someone took a surreptitious picture of him and posted it online saying how surprised they were to see the actor working such a lowly job. Then the shaming began. The only thing social media loves more than a rising star is a falling one. Internet pile-ons are common, but something happened to this story’s trajectory. People stood up for him. They recognized that he was working hard to provide for his family. He took an honest job to get by while still doing his art on the side and that’s downright admirable. I’d even say it was thoroughly American.
Like the actor in the news, I have a day job to get by. I also have a husband, three kids, a house, two cats, and a dog. There’s a lot on my plate so writing takes a back seat to life’s demands. Often, I don’t think of myself as a professional writer. I have a three-book series out there, but somehow that fact is overwhelmed by my feelings of inadequacy, as if there’s a real benchmark out there I haven’t hit yet. Some call this Imposter Syndrome, the idea that you’re really a fraud, even if you have accomplishments, even if you’re the real deal.
Twitter is the first place I heard the term. A well-known author posted that it was common even among best-sellers. I was taken aback. I had hoped that once I crossed the magical (as yet undefined) border between amateur and professional I would feel like a Real Author. Reading his tweet and knowing that so many of us struggle was comforting. It was like talking to a classmate and figuring out you weren’t the only one struggling with the material.
One of the things I like about social media is the ability to communicate with a large group of writers you would not have access to otherwise. With it come insights like the one above as well as challenges. Rubbing electronic shoulders with a big group of other authors can lead to comparing yourself, measuring your success against theirs. That is a recipe for feeling inadequate. As CS Lewis said “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
For those of us working day jobs it can be tough to see posts from authors who are able to make writing their primary, workday focus. But, I can easily imagine that authors who don’t have a day job feel the pressure to make every moment of their time count because they know people assume it’s an easy gig. I spent a few months freelancing and I can attest to the pressure to produce something that would make all those hours ‘worth it’. It was exhausting. Going back to work full time was a relief. When tempted to judge myself by someone else’s yardstick, I remember that. We all have challenges. My friend’s success is not at my expense. This is not a race.
Whether you’re working a day job, retired, writing fulltime or doing it on the side, you’re a writer. I’ve never cared for the ‘aspiring author’ title. Do you write? Then you’re a writer. God has given us a gift and we can feel free to be faithful in its use in the time that He has given us.Whether you’re working a day job, retired, writing fulltime or doing it on the side, you’re a writer. @CricketMacD #ACFWBlogs #amwriting www.acfw.com/blog Click To Tweet
Christa MacDonald is a 2017 Carol Award finalist for contemporary Christian fiction. When not working or writing Christa can be found ferrying her kids around, reading, gardening, or attempting something crafty. She and her family live along the coast of New England. Connect with Christa at www.christamacdonald.com