Why I Call Myself A Writer


by Lydia Mikkael | twitter: @lydiamikkael | blog: thenakedbeing.com

My bags were packed, the hotel was booked, and the childcare was in place. I had never done this before, and I was equal parts nervous and excited. Drawn by something I couldn’t quite articulate, I was attending my first writer’s conference. I’d long dreamed of being a writer, but the most I had to show for it was some bad poetry in a box in the closet. I felt silly even telling people about my trip because it would be followed with questions I had no answers to, like what genre I wrote or what I had published.

The first morning of the conference, I arrived too early so I spent five minutes writing my name on a nametag. I spotted the coffee and slowly filled a cup. As I scanned the information table, coffee in hand, the title of one of the presentations caught my eye: Fighting Imposter Syndrome. I’d never heard of that before, but it seemed pretty relatable to me at that moment. I scribbled out my name on the sign-up sheet as illegibly as possible.

To my surprise, the presentation was packed and the room was full of people who were much more accomplished writers than I. For a split-second, I wondered if I was even an imposter at the imposter session, but then the speaker began. She introduced the idea of imposter syndrome, a phenomenon where people are unable to internalize their accomplishments and instead feel they will be found out as a fraud. As I listened, all of her points resonated with me. Even when meeting other writers that morning, I had dismissed myself first, before someone else had the chance. I networked with the business cards I had labored over, and used a w9 maker form for independent work.

As the speaker continued, I began to melt-down. I did this in all areas of my life! When people ask what I do, I stutter. I don’t have a career because I am working slowly through a graduate program. I am going slowly because I want to be with my kids while they are young. The amount of hours I spend as wife and mother don’t seem conversation worthy, but neither does talking about my hobbies or hopes for the future. Whether I’m with other couples, at a playdate, or in class, I immediately size up the room to see the ways I don’t fit: I’m the youngest here; I have less experience; I do things differently.

As my life slowly unfolds I struggle with feeling like I belong anywhere.

I mulled over this feeling back at my hotel. Instead of the relaxing evening I had anticipated, I spent it flooding my take-out dinner with tears. The next morning in the conference parking lot, I laid my head on the steering wheel, wrung dry. Feeling like an imposter at faith too, I racked my brain for the name of a prayer I used to love. Thanks to Father, Son, and Google Search, I found it: Patient Trust, by Teilhard de Chardin. I read and re-read the last line of the prayer until it stuck:

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
… accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

I opened the car door and swung my legs out. I resolved to spend the second day of the conference as if I believed I was a writer, instead of feeling bad for myself that I wasn’t. I would choose confident language when speaking about myself. I would listen to the speakers with the potential to apply their messages to my work, instead of as fodder for comparison and falling short.

As the snow crunched beneath my boots, I realized, maybe I wasn’t such a faith imposter either. I had just summoned the notion of Lex Orandi, Lex Credindi. This Latin phrase is a Catholic theology that translated as “the law of prayer is the law of belief.” Basically, a life of faith is not necessarily preceded by belief, but instead, living a faithful life can help us believe. The times in life when my faith has felt dry and the words of my prayers no longer fit my image of God, I said them anyway. Or I tried new words. I wrestled through the motions until I found them meaning something again.

I pray like this every day. There are days (and weeks) when I know I love my husband, but I don’t feel it. So I respond with a grateful text, a tender touch, to remind him—and me—that I do. There are days that I don’t enjoy being a mother and dread the cry of my child being my alarm. But I pull myself out of bed anyway and discover true moments of joy hidden throughout the mundane.

And there are lots of days I don’t feel like I’m a writer. So I sit down and write about it until I remember who I am.


Lydia MikkaelAbout Lydia:

Hey there, Lydia here. I split my time between learning how to be a therapist, story-teller, wife, and mama of two. And when I’m not doing that, I organize the spice rack alphabetically and leave way too much highlighter in nonfiction books. Like a sunflower, I thrive best in community and full sun. You can find me on facebook, twitter, and my blog.