Sense of Identity

As I gather my thoughts for this next post, I realize that I am tired of writing about fears and doubts, and that means I’m making progress. After all, getting past all that is what The Artist’s Way is all about. Recognizing the source of those roadblocks is the first step to getting past them.

I am reminded of an incident that happened several years ago while tentatively taking my first steps back to my passion for writing. A well-known local author asked me what I was writing, and I responded with mumbling uncertainty. Instead of encouraging me, he treated

Dismissive – feeling or showing that something is unworthy of consideration.

Dismissive – feeling or showing that something is unworthy of consideration.

me in a dismissive and, I felt, arrogant way. I felt small, unwelcome, and unworthy. I have never returned to that writing group, thus limiting my network of fellow writers and mentors.

A gentleman in our Artist’s Way cluster related a story from years back when someone told him he couldn’t sing. This budding musician laid down his guitar and gave up his dream.

Another woman told of her sisters dismissing her creativity and never being interested in what she had to say.

The world is rife with these stories of artistic injuries. Sometimes well-meaning, sometimes intentionally hurtful, they diminish our self-identity as writers, musicians, artists and cause us to bury those passions.

So, how do we recover that identity? Face down the old hurts and turn those negative thoughts around. I started calling myself a writer before I believed I’d earned the right to do so. I found a more nurturing group of writers and eventually created my own group to nurture others. (See Just Write.)

My musician friend has picked up his guitar again and started taking voice lessons. The artist is allowing herself to explore colors and textures again.


What keeps you from indulging your creativity? Seek out those old injuries and tell yourself you deserve to nurture that part of yourself. Say it: “I am a writer.” “I am an artist.” “I am a musician.” It will feel false and weird at first. When I read the affirmation scrawled on my mirror, “I am a brilliant and prolific writer,” I still hear the evil laughter in the back of my mind. But someday….

8 thoughts on “Sense of Identity

  1. This is a great post, Patty. Right now, I’m working on a presentation on the power of story, including the stories we tell ourselves. Interestingly, we pay more attention to those negative stories — or mind chatter — because of our inborn survival mechanism. “Brontosaurus approaching at 50 feet” gets more attention than “look at the pretty flower.” Keep writing and moving forward and telling yourself that you are a brilliant and prolific writer. The only thing standing in your way to those goals is you.

    • Thanks, Rae. I never thought of it as a survival mechanism, but that makes sense. Creativity requires taking risks. I’m working on paying more attention to “the pretty flowers.”

  2. Patty, I need to print this post out to remind me that I am a writer. When people ask me what I do, writing is always at the bottom of the list, if mentioned at all. I feel like I haven’t earned the right to say that I’m a writer. I think I will feel better about it once I’ve actually completed a story, but I’m constantly procrastinating because I fear failure. No one has ever said anything negative towards my creative pursuits so I’m fortunate in that regards, but that damned Negative Committee has got to go!

    Thank you for the awesome post and bringing things back into focus for me.

    • Jill, is it failure you fear or success? Sometimes success is the scarier option. But you will finish that first story and the second and the third….

  3. Patti, detractors are insecure people who find strength when discouraging others. It is a character weakness and is to be pitied.They will rarely respond to any remedial help because they are in denial . One has to ignore their pessimism and negativity and believe in ones self as you and others have suggested . Ali the boxer was correct when he stated and believed “I am the greatest”. We should all love ourselves but in a humble and silent way. Love and admire you. Always proud of you.

  4. Patty!!! This is wonderful!

    As I was reading this, one book that set me on my journey kept coming to mind. That book was “Silences” by the late activist, Tillie Olsen (Lerner). I don’t recall all of the details of that book but, like Professor Jack De Bellis at Lehigh University, Tillie inspired me! Thank you for this very inspirational writing!

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