Guest Post: Embracing Our Identity As a Writer by Author Anne Goodwin

Today, I’m delighted and honoured to host author Anne Goodwin at the Summerhouse for her ongoing blog tour.

It’s lovely to welcome Anne again, so much enjoying her engaging and much discussed guest post, ‘Putting the personal into fiction…and taking it out again‘ three years ago (yes, that long…!).

Since then, Anne has published two novels (see her bio below). Her latest publication, ‘Becoming Someone‘,
an anthology of 42 short stories, launches on
23rd November. 

Anne’s stories explore the very different ways we view ourselves, asking,  ‘Is identity a given or can we choose the someone we become?’ (See Blurb below.)

As a mother of an adult child with Asperger’s Syndrome, this is a subject close to my heart, as discussed in my Raw Lit post over at Carrot Ranch in March, ‘Asperger’s, Voice And The Search For Identity.’

Anne’s guest post explores another subject close to my heart, and many of us reading I’m sure, as she delves into the complexity of a writer’s struggle with identity:

Don’t let your fears prevent you from embracing your identity as a writer

You write, so you’re a writer, right? Yet many of us struggle to embrace that concept, and not only because it twists the tongue if we try to say it fast out loud. Somehow we’ve built up such highfalutin fantasies of what a writer actually is we feel a fraud to claim that identity for ourselves. There’s often a sense we don’t deserve that title unless we’re exceptionally good at it, but is that logical? Think of government ministers lurching from one crisis to another: do they shy away from declaring themselves politicians merely because they don’t shine at the job? Of course not. Nor do they seem to pay much attention to how others judge them, given the level of criticism required to shame them into resignation.

The fear of feeling a fraud

Sometimes, however, knowing our assumptions aren’t rational isn’t enough to shrug them off. In my previous identity a psychologist, I learnt to do detective work on dysfunctional beliefs, excavating their origins and the fantasies that shore them up. Often, it helps to revisit our childhoods to explore how our unhelpful attitudes first arose.

Were your parents especially critical, looking out for behaviours to criticise instead of things to praise? That was certainly the case for me, and for many of my generation. (Although the current tendency towards excessive validation can also be damaging if children get the message it makes no difference what they do.)

Hard-to-please parents can set an overly ambitious standard of what’s acceptable, with no sense of good-enough. Maybe they didn’t intend to, maybe we didn’t mean to internalise the message, but it’s there when, at the end of a writing session, we can’t congratulate ourselves for getting the words on-screen or paper because those words are flawed.

As a child, what did you think writer was and did you dare imagine becoming one? Scribbling stories from almost the moment I could shape my letters, I think that, deep down, I always wanted to be a writer, although I’d never have articulated it, not even to myself. In fact, it was hard for me to summon any kind of ambition other than pleasing my parents, but it wasn’t only that. Writers were a breed apart from the adults in the working-class community that raised me. I’d have as much imagined being a writer as going into politics, and I had no notion of that.

When, in middle age, I admitted I wanted to write, it still felt audacious. The only writers I knew of were the successful ones whose hardback novels graced the windows of bookshops and were reviewed by other famous authors in the literary supplements at weekends. No wonder it took me so long to take my literary interest seriously with the barrier set so high.

Now, with two published novels and a short story anthology on the way, I’m definitely more confident in my identity as a writer. Nevertheless, published by a micro press no-one has heard of, there’s still a part of me that feels I’ve failed. If we’re prone to self-disparagement, that’s something every writer has to live with. In our hyper-connected world, we’re constantly reminded of the myriad things we haven’t achieved. Something else I take from my career as a psychologist – although don’t heed my own advice as much as I ought to – is that, as in any emotionally-demanding job, we need to take care of ourselves, to celebrate the small successes and to mourn our writerly disappointments too.

The fear of others’ negativity

If it wasn’t tough enough to embrace our identities as writers for ourselves, we have other people’s attitudes to contend with. Of course, we shouldn’t care what others think, but most of us do. Especially those of us who’ve imbibed criticism with our mothers’ milk. But there are things we can do to ensure that others’ negativity doesn’t cancel out our treasured identities altogether.

The first is obvious, but not necessarily easy to implement. We need to surround ourselves with people who do accept our legitimacy as writers and, where we can, shed those relationships that don’t. If it’s taken you time, as it did for me, to emerge as a writer, those close to you might also need time to adjust. But if they don’t adjust, and continue to undermine you, would you have the courage to let them go? Ah, but my mother/husband/sister doesn’t intend to hurt me, you might protest. But if you’ve tried to explain what it means to you and they still don’t listen? Their failure to support you could be symptomatic of a more general absence of respect. Unravelling ourselves from dysfunctional relationships can be complex and painful, but perhaps a necessary step towards becoming the person we want to be.

On the other hand, we need to guard against being so sensitive we detect slights that aren’t there. Sometimes, the negativity we perceive in others is actually a projection of the fraudulence we fear ourselves. Or it could be that an individual doesn’t recognise you as a real writer because of their misguided fantasies about what being a writer means. Is it easier to deal with if you can attribute it to lack of knowledge? Some people can’t resist attaching the adjective famous to the word author, perhaps even rich and famous in their heads. By responding with facts, rather than defensively, you might transform them into one of your supporters. You might, by example, encourage them to follow their dreams.

Although not all writers are published, most of us want our words to be read. Which inevitably means they’ll be judged, if we’re lucky, by people we never meet. Sensitive souls that we are, many of us feel diminished by a negative review. With practice, we can use this as a cue to take care of ourselves and also, as I found with my first one-star review on the eve of publication of my second novel, a reminder that tastes differ and we can’t please everyone.

It’s all material!

Remember too that everything’s material: our doubts and disappointments can be ploughed into our writing, contributing to an emotional depth. In my short story collection on the subject of identity, you might recognise some of the issues outlined in my characters’ narrative arcs. But it’s not swarming with writers, far from it: there’s only one young woman claiming the right to tell her story in her own individual way.

The theme’s evident in the mediaeval nun who retreats from her creativity and in the prize-winning physicist who can’t decide what to wear. It’s there in the woman with a worn-out marriage who discovers good-enough and in the overworked doctor who conjures up an alter ego to give himself a break. It’s echoed in the woman whose nearest-and-dearest thinks she’s crazy to adopt a more frugal lifestyle and in the young man telling his parents some uncomfortable and unexpected truths. Perhaps, if you do me the honour of reading the anthology you’ll identify other connections too.

*********

Thank you so much, Anne, for shedding your fascinating insight on this subject which I, and I’m sure most writers, relate to.  It took me a long time to say with purpose, ‘I am a writer.’ You indeed inspire us to be the someone we should be.

‘Becoming Someone’ is published 23rd November by Inspired Quill

Many Congratulations, Anne!

Becoming Someone blurb

What shapes the way we see ourselves?

An administrator is forced into early retirement; a busy doctor needs a break. A girl discovers her sexuality; an older man explores a new direction for his. An estate agent seeks adventure beyond marriage; a photojournalist retreats from an overwhelming world. A woman reduces her carbon footprint; a woman embarks on a transatlantic affair. A widow refuses to let her past trauma become public property; another marks her husband’s passing in style.

Thought-provoking, playful and poignant, these 42 short stories address identity from different angles, examining the characters’ sense of self at various points in their lives. What does it mean to be a partner, parent, child, sibling, friend? How important is work, culture, race, religion, nationality, class? Does our body, sexuality, gender or age determine who we are?

Is identity a given or can we choose the someone we become?

*******

Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, was published in 2017. Her short story collection, Becoming Someone, on the theme of identity launches on Facebook on November 23rd, 2018, where the more people participate the more she’ll donate to Book Aid International. A former clinical psychologist, Anne is also a book blogger with a particular interest in fictional therapists.

You can connect with Anne here:

Website: annegoodwin.weebly.com

Twitter @Annecdotist

Amazon author page

Author page at Inspired Quill publishers

 *******

And just in time for Christmas… Sugar and Snails promotion Anne’s debut novel is discounted to 99p or equivalent (Kindle version) throughout November viewbook.at/SugarandSnails

*******

Follow Anne on her ‘Becoming Someone’ blog tour trail
for more updates and guest posts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Sherri Matthews

While writing to publication of her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', Sherri has been published in national magazines, websites and four anthologies in memoir, essays, articles, poetry and flash fiction. Sherri raised her children in California, and today lives in England with her husband, Aspie youngest and their pet menagerie fondly called ‘Animal Farm’. As well as writing, Sherri keeps out of trouble gardening, walking, and taking endless photographs, a few of the better ones she shares on her blog A View From My Summerhouse.
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78 Responses to Guest Post: Embracing Our Identity As a Writer by Author Anne Goodwin

  1. Lovely to meet you Anne, and congratulations on the release of your third book. 🌼

    Liked by 2 people

  2. purpleslob says:

    Congrats on your books, Anne!! And Sherri, thanks for hosting her!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. traceyr1984 says:

    This was so fitting for me, thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Charli Mills says:

    Becoming Someone is a great theme for any of us to explore, but I think it resonates deeply with writers because of the struggles we have with a writerly identity. I like the idea that there is choice in who we become.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Juliet says:

    Oh my goodness Anne, how this rings true! For many of us I imagine. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I look forward to reading ‘Becoming Someone’ very soon.
    Hi Sherri, I’m back, and so happy to be at your Summerhouse again. 💕

    Liked by 2 people

    • Annecdotist says:

      Thanks, Juliet, I’m glad it made sense to you — sometimes you don’t quite know!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Juliet…how wonderful to see your smiling face lighting up the Summerhouse once again! ❤ I just commented on your well deserved placing for Irene's memoir contest over at the Ranch, so excited to see you back to writing and riding again, welcome back, my friend! 🙂 I've been hanging by a thread with blogging myself, the last push, months in the making, to get my memoir finished pretty brutal. But I've done it and it's still sinking in. It's with an editor now, so I can take a bit of a breather. I want to tell everyone, but I know there's going to be a lot more work…but it's the thought that I've actually written a complete book that I can't actually believe! Anyway…on the catch up now, albeit slow! Thank you so much for your lovely comment for Anne…certainly does ring true!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. There are lots of familiarities for me here – it took me a long time to describe myself as a writer with confidence, and I too had an over-critical parent so I fight against that sense of being ‘good enough’.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. dgkaye says:

    Wonderful to read more from Anne here, Sherri. Congrats to Anne on her new release. I will definitely check it out! ❤ xxxx

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Dearest Sherri, thank you so much for introducing Anne on your blog. I’ve not come across her before, but I so love her attitude that I think I’ll check out her blog and her books. She comes over as very wise and honest. Will add her book to my kindle. Lots of love, hugs and kisses, Sarah xxxxxxxxxxxx

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Norah says:

    Lovely to see Anne here with you in your Summerhouse, Sherri. It’s funny how we writers (did I just say that?) share these same identity/fraud issues. I’m so pleased that Anne is finding it less so now that she has published three books. I wonder how many it will take to feel it not at all. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Annecdotist says:

      Thanks, Norah, I wonder too!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Norah! Ha…yes, you did just say that…you did just say ‘I am a writer’ 😀 I love the way Anne shares here experiences with us, mentoring those of us along the way yet to publish especially. Since finishing my memoir (yes…it’s with the editor!), I feel even less of a writer (I’ve slumped into a funk since sending it off, brief elation…then crashed…to be expected I understand…) but I know where it’s come from (crushing self-doubt…everything Anne discusses here, so particularly timely!) and know better how to prevent it from sending me spiralling. That’s the thing about writing – for us WRITERS -: we struggle with so much psychological ‘stuff’ as well as the actual act of writing. Phew…well, that’s my little rant of the day off my chest! Feel better now…and here’s to settling into our true identiy and never doubting it. Thank you so much for your comment, Norah 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  10. A lovely author post, Sherri. I found Anne’s thought about how we see ourselves as writers and the reality of that perception very interesting. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

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