I am a Writer

Lately I’ve been having trouble getting my thoughts onto paper. I thought I would be overflowing with inspiration after the Families in Global Transition conference (FIGT) and I would be able to write endlessly. Instead, I find myself struggling to express everything I felt. I am overflowing with inspiration, emotions and thoughts, but I am unable to translate them into written words.

I’ve wanted to post an entry about being a writing scholar and what that brought me, yet every time I write something it feels forced. Then I realized I was too focused on just the time at FIGT, without looking at the bigger picture. My journey as a writer didn’t start there, so why was I starting there? So I thought about how I felt at the conference and traced backwards from there…

Learning to Call Myself a Writer

Something I loved very much at FIGT was being surrounded by people who didn’t make me feel uncomfortable or out of place. My background wasn’t an issue, my experiences didn’t make me odd, people even knew how to pronounce my name and what it meant! But it wasn’t just my personal story that felt accepted – my professional story was as well. No one judged me or looked down on me for not having a 9-5 corporate job. So many others at the conference were freelancers in their own domain, or had started their own companies; but even those who do work in corporate environments weren’t judgmental when they knew I was a freelance writer. They showed interest or curiosity, wondering what I wrote about and what led me to writing. Everyone I spoke with at the conference was following their passion, and they also understood the need for a portable career. They understood me.

Outside of the conference, in the “real world”, I often find it hard to be accepted for what I am. I felt like being a freelance writer and trying to pursue my passion wasn’t good enough, so I rarely told people that’s what I do. I usually said I was looking for work and that I sometimes did some writing in the meantime.

But that’s not entirely true.

I have been looking for work – both writing/non-writing related; that part is true. But I don’t ‘sometimes write in the meantime’ – I write all the time. And that’s what I want to be doing. I want writing to be my job and my career.

Over the past few months I had started accepting this realization and was trying to push myself to say, “I’m a freelance writer”, when asked what I do. It’s not easy to make myself believe that. Even though I had published a couple of articles in a magazine, I still couldn’t fully convince myself.

Being a Writing Scholar

Then at the beginning of this year, I saw the ParfittPascoe Writing Residency for FIGT:

If you long to turn your writing hobby into a portable career and want to be published in blogs, magazines on and offline, websites and maybe even books, this might be for you.

If you have already proven your desire of turning your dream into a reality with maybe a blog, a few articles published in newsletters and online (not necessarily for money), then you are definitely the kind of person we want.”

It felt like an opportunity tailor-made for me. I wanted to apply but I was scared. Scared that it was too big a commitment and that I wasn’t good enough to do it. There was so much to do, both before and after the conference. There were lessons and articles to prepare beforehand and after it was a whole other story. There would be articles, blog posts and book reviews to publish; interviews to prepare and write-up; and the articles/chapters for the FIGT book. If I applied and was rejected, I would be devastated. If I applied and got accepted, I would be elated…and terrified. I was scared of failure and of success. But I couldn’t NOT apply. It was exactly the chance I was looking for.

While waiting to know if I had been selected, I remember checking my email on my phone before heading off to sleep. And I never do that. I don’t even have my email set up on my phone. But I knew that the decision was probably made and I had to know. There was no way I could wait until the next morning to check. When I read the email telling me I was one of the four scholars, I was thrilled beyond belief. I couldn’t stop smiling. I even woke up my sleeping husband to let him know. The news was too good to keep to myself!

I was so excited about being a writing scholar; it felt like a dream come true. Nervous as I was, I knew I was capable of doing it. I had been waiting for this opportunity and I was going to make it count. It was my chance to prove that I am a writer and that I can make a career out of my passion.

From the very beginning of the conference I realized that I was in the right place – both as a Third Culture Kid and as a writer. The fact that everyone around me was part of a global community fulfilled the TCK side of me, and everyone’s endless encouragement fed the writer in me. But among all the inspiring words, a few stood out – probably because they spoke directly to me and attacked my doubts about being a writer. At the writer’s forum on the first day of FIGT, Shirley Agudo* told us that whatever you want to be, claim it”. Linda Janssen** echoed that thought, reminding us to own what we do and what we are. Sometimes the biggest step is saying those words: “I’m a writer”. Then we must learn to claim them and believe them.

Well, I am a writer. I don’t know if I fully claim it and believe it every day, but I know I’m on the right track.

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*Author, photographer and assistant editor of Global Living Magazine; ** Blogger and author of The Emotionally Resilient Expat: Engage, Adapt and Thrive Across Cultures

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22 thoughts on “I am a Writer

  1. Bravo Dounia! You are indeed a writer, a Pascoe/Parfitt Resident Writer, adult Third Culture Kid and so much more. Loved this post and the confidence it contains. And thanks for mentioning me along with Shirley. It was a wonderful Writer’s Forum Jo put together.

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    1. Thanks so much for this comment, Linda, it really means a lot! 🙂 I know we didn’t get a chance to chat much at FIGT, but what you said really resonated with me. And it was indeed a wonderful Writer’s Forum – I enjoyed every minute!

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  2. Dear Dounia,
    Thanks for writing this 🙂
    I clicked the ‘liked’ button and I really like it very much.
    You don’t know how much I relate with your feelings. Sometimes, my ‘non-mother tongue’ gremlins dance behind my back with their villain talking trying to convince me about what I am not good at.
    However, when believers, including ourselves, start their own dance, they authentically own the stage: writing inspires other people to see, hear and feel.
    When this is happening, like for me today in reading your post, it’s time to claim the title out loud: Writer!
    Congratulations and thank you!.
    Cristina

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    1. And of course you ARE a writer. I hadn’t been dropping in on you for a while but suddenly I bumped into a post you did on Washington DC yonks ago. And then, there is this post. Serendipity I’m sure. I’ll keep an eye out now for your posts;)

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      1. Thanks so much, Audrey! I really appreciate your comment and I’m happy you stumbled upon my blog once again 🙂 I remember you had so kindly shared my older DC post and it does seem quite serendipitous that you drop in on another (quite different!) DC-related post! I hope you do stop by again and that you enjoy what I write in the future too. Thanks again!

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    2. Thanks for ‘liking’ this post, and for commenting, sharing, calling…And just being so wonderfully kind and encouraging!! 🙂 One of the best comments ever is when someone tells me they can relate to what I’ve written. Knowing someone else feels the same and understands is such a great feeling. And I love what you wrote (so poetically!): “Sometimes, my ‘non-mother tongue’ gremlins dance behind my back with their villain talking trying to convince me about what I am not good at.
      However, when believers, including ourselves, start their own dance, they authentically own the stage: writing inspires other people to see, hear and feel.”

      That’s so beautifully written and so true. We need to ignore those gremlins with their negative words and just start our own dance. I look forward to inspiring each other in the future as we continue our journey and our dance as writers! Thanks again very, very much for this comment, Cristina – it really means a lot to me!

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  3. Congratulations. You wrote those hallowed words – I am a writer. That it not the first step. You have already taken the first step and many after that. You are ‘doing’ what you say. You are a good writer. I chose you because I knew that. The rest is easy… Keep on believing

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    1. Thank you, Jo. You have no idea how much your comment means to me, and how grateful I am for this wonderful opportunity you gave me. With such kind and wonderful people encouraging me, it gets easier to believe.

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  4. Very well said, Dounia, thank you. I know this post resonates with so many others as much as it does with me. It’s a process (or, more poetically, a journey) we go through to claim what we know we are – well, most of the times 🙂 There’s a sentence I read in an article a while ago (unfortunately, I didn’t keep the source), which I have taped right next to my desk, in big letters: “We are lucky. Very lucky. We are writers.”

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    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, Katia. I really appreciate it, even more so because I think you write beautifully and I’m really enjoying your blog. I’m so happy this post resonated with you – it means so much to me when someone tells me what I wrote resonated with them or that they related to it. One of the best parts of blogging and writing is connecting with others, sharing stories… You’re right that it’s a journey we go through and sometimes we don’t believe or claim what we are, even though we know it. But that quote you mentioned sums it up quite nicely – I’ll have to read that (and all of these comments) whenever I doubt! 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much, Lisa! I really appreciate that you took the time to read this and leave a comment. I’m so grateful that everyone I met at FIGT (you included) have been so kind and encouraging. It means the world to me, and I really hope this is just the start to many more years of writing.

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    1. Thank you very much, Sue! 🙂 I’m so happy you could relate to what I wrote – like I mentioned in earlier comments, that’s one of my favorite comments ever. Knowing that there is someone who feels the same and understands makes everything better. This wasn’t the easiest post to write and I really poured my heart out…Getting these kinds of comments has been amazing, and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.

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  5. Dounpoun, obviously I’m a bit late and out of it compared to when everyone else reacted, but I loved reading this post and everything it expresses! I’m so proud of you and your work as a writer. Honestly sometimes think I should drop the job and follow your lead … (but with a brush rather than a pen ;))

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    1. Doesn’t matter if it’s later, I just love that you commented! And thanks for this comment – it means a lot 🙂 Maybe you should do that – I’ll write, you paint! I’m sure we could find great ways to combine our talents…

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  6. I love this! I don’t know if you’ve read any of Clair DeBoer’s stuff but her e-book The Gift of Writing was excellent – I think you’d really like it. And I so know that sense of speaking out what you long for! I’m on the same journey and glad to know others!

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    1. Thanks so much, Marilyn! And thanks for the reading suggestion – I hadn’t heard of her before, but I’ll definitely check out her book. It is great to find others who are on the same journey and understand what you write about. You should call yourself a writer without a doubt; your writing is amazing and I’m always looking forward to reading what you write next 🙂

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  7. A bit late in the day but here’s my tuppence worth: CONGRATULATIONS!!! I just saw this nice clip about Jane Goodall (she’s coming to visit ASP in three days!) and she says, very matter-of-factly, that we should follow our dreams and never mind what others say, that it’s a competitive field or whatever. We’ve all hear that before but she put it so nicely and having just read your post again it was particularly meaningful. My 25-yr-old niece is going through a big stage of questioning herself, her worth, what she wants to do, what she CAN do, and these times of questioning are painful but i think necessary, and we come out of them the better for it. Bravo Dounia!

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    1. Thank you so much! 🙂 These past couple of months have been some crazy and busy but exciting and fulfilling as well! That’s really exciting about Jane Goodall coming to ASP and what she says is so true, but not always easy to do. I can understand how your niece feels – it’s not easy to figure things out, and sometimes other people’s judgments make it even more difficult. Thankfully I have wonderfully supportive family and friends (including you!), who have helped me believe in myself along the way 🙂 I wish your niece the best of luck in whatever she does, and I’m sure she’ll find her path. Thanks again for these lovely comments, Anne – they always make my day!

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      1. My pleasure dear Dounia! I am always so admiring at how you so thoughtfully respond to your followers’ comments, it takes time and effort and I’m trying to emulate you!

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