My Anxious Subconscious Asks: What Makes a Real Writer?

Last night, I dreamed I was back in college. Do you get those dreams? You know the ones I mean. You’re back in university, unprepared for the final exam… or you’re giving a presentation in a crowded lecture hall and look down to see you’re naked… or you need to submit your thesis but the hallway to your advisor’s office never ends as the deadline ticks down… or my own personal nightmare: being hopelessly lost on campus and unable to remember my schedule or even to find the classrooms because I’ve forgotten to go to class all semester.

Last night’s dream, though, was different than my usual anxiety-fueled college dream.

I was in a classroom taking a test. As the professor called “Time!” I realized that all my answers were in the wrong spaces! I begged the professor to let me keep the test, fix my answers, and bring it back the next morning. He agreed, but the next morning I couldn’t get out of the house. The clock was ticking down while I couldn’t find clothes, spilled drinks on myself, etc.. I panicked as my deadline approached. I was never going to make it! Suddenly, I stopped, and asked my dream-husband, “Why am I doing this? I already have a Bachelor’s degree. I don’t need another one. Do I?” Dream-husband replied, “You could get a Master’s instead.” But my dream-self wasn’t sure about that either. He said, “There’s a creative writing course starting at the library tonight. You could do that.” I went to the library where a crowd gathered for the first session. I squeezed into an empty seat. A microphone for introductions was passed around the enormous room. By the time it got to me, I was anxious because I had forgotten what I was supposed to say. I said something weird and irrelevant before handing the microphone away.

The dream stuck out to me when I woke up. Not because it’s interesting. As dreams go, it’s fairly boring. And not because it demonstrates that I have some anxiety. That’s not news to me. Rather, my first thought upon waking was that the dream was about my own self-doubt. It was about feeling like I’m not good enough to be a “real” writer. Otherwise, why did my dream-self think I needed to do anything other than to sit down and write? My subconscious thinks I need some credentials. I need another degree. I need a fancy course. I need to study more before I can write anything worthwhile. I need to be legitimized before I can be considered a “real” writer.

Forget that.

What I actually need is to brush off this nighttime imposter syndrome. I need to believe in myself and put my pen to paper. I need to prioritize time for writing and then stick with it. I have stories and thoughts that are worthwhile. Someone will want to read them. I just need to write them. A real writer is one who writes. It’s as simple as that.

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