Getting Out of The Way

This morning I was reading one of the stack of books that I’m reading at the same time (I can’t seem to keep my attention on just one book at a time these days), a book called Going To Pieces Without Falling Apart by Mark Epstein. I came across a sentence that hit me as a writer who feels like an imposter of a writer:

We discover what we need to say when we get out of the way of our selves.

I get in my own way when I have that impulse to write. I’ve been doing this for years. It doesn’t matter that I’ve completed several books. I still do this. I get in my way because I don’t feel like a writer. The reason I don’t feel like a writer is largely an issue of me not really putting much value on what I write, because I don’t consider myself to be successful enough to call myself a writer.

This is wrong, of course, because success isn’t defined by whether you get published UNLESS that’s how you choose to define it. Success isn’t defined by the number of readers who read a post UNLESS that’s how you choose to define it. And success as a writer shouldn’t be defined by how much I earn. What if I published a free book and millions read it, but I never made a penny? Would I be unsuccessful?

But I do get in the way, even if I’m able to write this post and say these things which are really just me talking to me more than I’m talking to anyone else. I get in the way because I’ve practiced it so long it has become second nature.

It was almost a fluke that I wrote the first book. I had already given up on being a writer years before that happened. All it took was a weird dream to inspire me to write a story that entertained me. And yes, I had grand ideas of success beyond that, which I defined in terms of getting published and getting reads.

When I didn’t meet that level of success that I envisioned, I went back to the old mindset of not thinking I was a writer. That’s imposter syndrome. It’s real.

So I got in my way. Again and again. A book got put aside to grow dusty, 3/4 finished. The others didn’t really get out there in the world, save for a few hundred copies of the first edition of that first book. The free chapters I posted online, even recently, got less than 10 reads. So I felt my non-writerness be reinforced by this.

And meanwhile, the desire to write was there. The blank page scared me off. It wasn’t a block, really, just fear.

And I could feel this way again, even after this post. But today I’ll write this. Today I’m a writer, but I’m also not a writer. I’m a person who is currently practicing writing.

Here you go.

By J. Parrish Lewis

J. Parrish Lewis was born and raised in Maryland. In his youth there, he and his brother had many adventures in the dogwood forests near his home. His nostalgia for these adventures has strongly influenced his characters, their relationships, and their perspective on the world they inhabit. He moved to California’s coast to earn his degree in communications and now lives with his family in the San Joaquin Valley. Lewis is profoundly deaf and uses American Sign Language to communicate. He enjoys hazelnut coffee, captioned movies, and walking his dog.

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