I Am Not My Work

Art by Benjamin Gabriel

Not too long ago, I wrote about how being a writer is meaningless. I’ve continued to think about that idea, and today I just want to share some thoughts about it.

I used to want to be a famous writer. Actually, I had a very specific goal — to have my works included in literary text books for high school and college students. I wanted my writing to be considered definitive of an era. After all, anyone can write a book, but in order to feel that I was really a good writer, I needed to be the best writer.

My entire identity and self-worth was wrapped up in this idea of being a great writer, and if you’ve any idea of what the publishing industry looks like right now, you can probably imagine how this is a problem. No one wants to publish your book? Probably because you’re worthless as a human being. That was pretty much my internal dialogue for a few years.

The prospect of earning a living as a writer was terrifying. I loved writing because it was literally my main tool for navigating the world. I trusted no one but my own writing, and I was completely wrapped up in my own inner world, which is why I had no close friends for a really long time. To turn that into a source of income made me feel too vulnerable, and I was unwilling to do any writing I didn’t really love.

At the same time, my yoga practice was starting to teach me, “You are not your job. You are not your belongings. You are not your social status.” I still struggled with the idea that I needed to be something more, something better. I needed to be great but couldn’t wrap my mind around what that meant.

Only when I started teaching yoga did that change. When I’m teaching a class, I don’t want to be famous, to prove myself, or to impress anyone. All I want is to do a good job for the people in front of me. When they visibly improve from one class to the next and say “thank you” to me at the end of the day, I have the most amazing feeling of success I’ve ever had.

I no longer feel that need to prove myself as a great writer. I write because I love it and because it’s a good tool for me. Writing is now part of my yoga, part of how I understand the world, but it’s no longer my identity.

After all these years, I realize:

I am not a writer.
I am a me.
Writing is something I do.
My writing does not define me.
I do.

Monday Night Nonfiction: Still Practicing
Own Your Art. Yes, Art.

3 thoughts on “I Am Not My Work

  1. I think many of us tend to define ourselves that way. We do it in different ways. For a while, I was “only” a mother and a wife. I was a teacher. I was a closeted writer. It’s much more fulfilling to recognize that I am all of these things, and none of them ultimately defines me.

  2. Yes, well, referring back to another recent post of yours–if you don’t have children and you’re a woman over 30, people will automatically presume you are your job–otherwise, why wouldn’t you be having children?

  3. Beth and E, you’re making me want to write about the meaning of “so hum,” my favorite matra to use in yoga classes. It’s funny the many ways we define ourselves, label ourselves, or get labeled by others. To me, “so hum” is all about letting go of those labels in favor of being a whole person. It’s hard when you’re as attached to the idea of “being a writer” as I am, but allowing myself to be more than that has been pretty incredible so far.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *