What is it Like to Feel Like a Writer?

Elyse Cizek
5 min readApr 1, 2021

Self-sabotage, fear, and resistance in turning art into a career.

Photo of the Author by Anya Maria Johnson

Someone asked me today when I started writing. I paused for a long time.

“What do you mean?”

He thought for a second and replied, “yeah, I guess that’s a weird question to ask a writer.”

The truth is, even today I’m not sure if I am one.

I had an idea three months ago for an article I wanted to write. A series, really. It was going to be a series of artist portraits written in the style of the great Vogue cover pieces I’ve been obsessing over all my life. Focusing primarily on BIPOC and queer artists, my plan was to visit them in their studios, fully witness them in their element, ask them questions about their processes and pay close attention to details that delicately yet poetically embody the nuances of their unique personalities. I had a list, a few that I was planning to interview, and I even interviewed my first artist back in January. I took detailed notes and voice recordings to get the most in-depth and rawest possible portrait of someone I admire to no end. It’s all there. All of my material. The talent? I have it. The subject? Willing and eager. The page? Empty.

Now I know that for some who don’t suffer or aren’t currently suffering from a block may not understand why I’ve been able to churn out one article after another for the past three months, yet can’t bring myself to do the one piece that I want to create for the career I want down the line. I’ve wanted to write for Vogue (in all honesty — edit it) since I was a teenager. I have a collection of issues from 2001–2013 in the basement of my parent’s house in Wisconsin that I’ve warned them not to touch. This portrait series is the closest I’ve ever felt to achieving that dream. It’s the kind of content I want in my portfolio when I approach Conde Nast (or the kind of content I want them to find me through). So why haven’t I written it?

The short, objective answer is — I have a fear of success. But that’s never what it feels like. It feels like I’m doing everyone a favor by not doing something perfectly the first time.

I’ve written a bit about imposter syndrome before to explain why I haven’t gotten to where I want to be yet. There are no outside…