"Don't waste your talent" and other lies
"Don't waste your talent" and other lies

Are there times when you’re unwilling to say you’re a writer? Unwilling to say what you write? Or, if you do answer, you couch it under the mask of your day job so that your writing is diminished, so it sounds small, a hobby, and harmless?

This is hard to hear but true: what that means is you feel shame about your writing. Good news: you’re not alone.

“I have spent a good many years since―too many, I think―being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.”

This is from Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s such a good book. It’s such an honest book.

I don’t know why this happens, but without question, it does. We who create are given strange pressures and accusations as if we’re doing something wrong, and it starts young.

Our first efforts – which are understandably not good – are critiqued as though we’re supposed to be pros with 20 years experience.

Our early hopes and dreams are brushed aside with some variation on, “Haha! Better have a REAL job, too.”

If that wasn’t enough, our later attempts – which are starting to be good – are tossed aside as never “good enough.” Or worse, not as good as someone else’s work.

We have a lot of fire to walk through, fellow writers. That shame is one of those signs that we’ve heard uncomfortable voices and believed them, at least on some level.

What to Do About Writer’s Shame

Here’s what I want you to do this week: start fighting to be proud of your work.

Yes, it’s not as good as the professional who’s been doing this thirty years longer than you have. (That’s because he’s been doing it thirty years longer than you have. Give yourself some grace.)

Yes, it might not even be as good as you think it can be, if you didn’t waste time or mess up or whatever hammer you’re using to hit yourself with right now.

I don’t care. None of that matters. What matters is this: you are creating, and growing and learning, and that is something to be proud of.

Why? The world would stop you if it could. It tries. How many times have you taken the whispered just give up and NOT given up?

Every time you’ve done that, you won a battle. That is something to be proud of.

I know writing isn’t easy. I know there are people we will never impress, no matter how hard we try.

Don’t let their disapproval define your shame. You do not need to be ashamed.

Say it with me: I am a writer and I am not ashamed.

Say it again. I am a writer and I am not ashamed.


I know it’ll be a long time before you really feel that, so it’s going to take practice. I have to practice it, too.

Let’s do it together. I am a writer. So are you. There is no shame in that.

And anyone who tries to say there is can go pound sand.


A three-times bestselling author, Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and been the keynote speaker for the Write Practice Retreat. Author of two series with five books and fifty-plus short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom and used up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon in the process. When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away. P.S. Red is still her favorite color.