Believe in your gift as a writer, and don’t let anyone take it away.

paulo cohlo writerMy gift is that I can write.

Looking back, this has been evident since I was about 10 years old. But the first time I truly believed in this gift was when I was 22 and started working as a trainee copywriter at an ad agency in London, England.

After a few weeks working there the Creative Director told me I was truly gifted as a writer. Soon after that, I received a big pay rise to dissuade me from moving to another agency.

I was lucky. I really was. Many people have a gift, but never have it validated in the way I did. As a result, they are never quite sure, and never fully believe in the gift they have.

Which brings me to the conference I attended this week, the AWAI Web Intensive.

There were about 100 people there. I’m not sure of the exact number. Out of all those attending I got to speak individually to about 30. And of those, I know three well enough to have noticed they are truly gifted as writers.

Because I know how important it is to have one’s talents validated, I told each of these people they had a gift.

One, I’m pretty sure, didn’t believe me at all.

Another was happy to hear me say it, but felt I was over-stating her talent. Which I wasn’t.

The third would probably have believed me a few years ago, before spending time with an employer who constantly belittled her writing talent.

It’s one thing to have a gift, but it seems to be quite another to believe in it, and in oneself.

Are we doomed if we can’t find someone to validate our gift? It might seem so. But, in fact, that isn’t the case. If you are stubborn enough, you can do this for yourself.

To illustrate how this can happen, let me tell you a story.

A teenager named Paulo wanted to become a writer. Writing was his passion, and his gift. His parents, however, felt he would do better pursuing a career in law, and suggested to him that he do his writing in his spare time.

Whatever his parents said, Paulo stuck to his guns, insisting that he would devote his life to writing. To help him change his mind, his mother and father had him committed to a mental institution, where he was submitted to electroshock treatment to “cure” him of his dream.

In total, he was committed three times, and underwent electroshock treatment repeatedly.

Was he cured of his desire to write? It seems not. Paulo Coelho is the best-selling Portuguese-language author of all time. His books have sold tens of millions of copies and have been translated into over 60 languages.

Certainly, his case is exceptional.

But if you doubt your gift, or if those around you fail to support your ambition to write, you could do worse than ask yourself, “What would Paulo Coelho do?”

About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach.

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5 thoughts on “Believe in your gift as a writer, and don’t let anyone take it away.

  1. Thanks for this Nick. . .and for the sessions in San Diego. I love Coelho myself, very inspiring writer. Hope you’ll remember to pick up a copy of John Holt’s book, “Never too Late”, re. His cello playing.

  2. Nice article, Nick (did anyone ever tell you you can write…?). I believe creativity is part of being human – and a great source of fun. But all too often we’re told at an early age that we’re no good at art, music, writing etc. and, sadly, we take it to heart and miss out on that joy.

  3. This article really struck a cord with me.

    About 20 years ago, my boss at the time sent me on a 5-day writing workshop, when I first started working on publications for her (it was a new position in the organisation, and I had previously been doing admin work for her).

    On the fourth day, we were given an assignment to write a 500-word story overnight, on anything we liked, and submit it first thing the next day. I wrote a story that night and the next morning woke up and realised it was rubbish. I then wrote a totally new one in an hour on the train going to the workshop – all about being given just such an assignment and how such pressure could make you write when you had no idea where to start. I finished it literally two minutes before hand-in time.

    That afternoon we had our stories evaluated one-on-one with the trainer, who was real old-school with a background in many writing types, journalism, English teaching and more and who told it like it was. Kind, but warts and all – if your writing was bad he’d tell you. If he said it was good, you knew it really was.

    When I walked in and sat down, he looked at me and said, “You know what? You really can write.” He then gave me truly brilliant feedback on both the story and on writing as a profession.

    Of course my writing is not always up to scratch – we all have our bad days – but what he said stuck, and since then I have felt that it’s something that I can really do. And I’m still very happy doing it.

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