When I was a beginner of the writing craft, I was in high school. I wrote for the sheer pleasure of it, absorbed with the practice because it called to me, and because I had plenty of time. In those days, we didn’t have such big mountains of homework, nor did we have to attend so many meetings after school for the high volume of activities expected of students today. Back then, we didn’t have smart phones or social media, but we did have computer games and too many cable channels. Either way, I loved writing so much I started carrying a notebook with me everywhere I went so I could write whenever an idea struck.
Even into my college years I had the time to dedicate to writing because it called to me on a cellular level. I couldn’t ignore the words rolling around in my head. They poured out of me at all hours of the day and night, sometimes even waking me up from a dream, demanding to be forged on the page. This practice went on for over a decade, sprinkled with writing workshops, books on improving my technique, and talking with other writers. Then I decided to give up.
In my heart, what I wanted more than anything was to dedicate myself to writing. I wanted to be a published author. When I said this to people in my life—the people who supposedly cared for me—some of them told me my dream was impossible, and that I’d better get a “real job.” Time and time again I was told that writing wasn’t ever going to amount to a real income, and at some point I allowed those fear-based ideas to leech into my head. When my children were young, I gave up writing for many years, believing that it would never lead to anything.
During those years, I was horribly unhappy.
Quite a few people I know have heard me tell the story of how I gave up writing in a foolhardy attempt to “grow up” and get a “real job.” Like so many other writers who did this, I failed at everything I tried to do. Every job I took only left me empty or frustrated. Meanwhile, words leaked out of me onto register tapes, napkins, and even the margins of magazines. I wrote in all the spare spaces of whatever paper I held. Eventually, I took the hint that my heart was trying to give me for years. I started writing again.
Once I embraced my craft and dove into it again fully, I felt alive again. I got a poem published in a small arts journal, to this day one of the biggest honors of my writing life. All of the writers published in that journal were far more well-established than I was, and I was floored to be included with them. After that, I got a pair of articles published in a magazine, and then I wrote a whole novel. It wasn’t very good, but I did it. But then the rug got yanked out from under me, just when the wind began to fill my sails.
In an effort to make more money, I went back to school to get my teaching degree. It took every last drop of energy and time in my day outside of working and taking care of my kids. I slept very little in those three years, and trying to work as a teacher made me happy only when I could work with my students on writing. Otherwise, I struggled with the other aspects of the job. Being trapped in bureaucracy is not for me, but I was trying to do the right thing, or so I thought.
Eventually, teaching in schools stopped working at all. It’s like the universe was banging me over the head with a two-by-four, telling me to listen to the clear message I was getting: YOU ARE A WRITER. Still, I didn’t know how to make a living as a writer. I had spent most of my adult years teaching. In this mess of my life, I wasn’t really sure what to do, so after years of stress and suffering, I finally embraced my writing desire once again. I followed my heart and got myself into a writing habit of producing 500 words per day. It changed everything.
With so much dedication to writing daily, I improved my work drastically over the course of a year and managed to write more than one whole novel in that time, along with a few short stories. I finished more in a year than I had in the last five. It was glorious, and I felt so much better. Still, I was listening to those dubious voices in my head, the voices of people who wanted to help, but steered me wrong. They were telling me I couldn’t publish, that my writing was only for me. Thank goodness I realized it was hogwash.
At some point, I got out of my head and chose to honor my truth. I quit trying to please everyone else, including publishers, and decided to publish myself. With a little ingenuity, I found a friend to help me edit a book I wrote, created art for the cover, and put that work out there…but not before I tried it under a pen name first. I published a different novel to test the landscape, and got decent feedback from friends, then took it down. After that, I just kept going.
Now I am ready to publish my fourth book with several more in the wings, and have the goal to publish ten books in five years. I’m right on target. As I continue to publish, I figured out how to build a website, start a bunch of social media and email campaigns, and am working on freeing myself from a day job so I can focus entirely on my writing. It’s happening. I’m honoring my dream.
Clearly, my story doesn’t end here, but I hope anyone reading will learn from my lessons. Don’t fall into the same traps I did. Listen to the inner voice that tells you to write. Honor who you really are. Make the time for writing and make it a daily habit. Trust that whatever you are meant to do will unfold for you if you give it time and put in the effort. You may be tested along the way, you may have to fight a dragon or two, but the dragons are only in your head; only your truth is reality.
If this story speaks to you and you need a little help getting up the mountain of mixed messaging, I am right here, ready to take your hand. It would be my honor to help you if you’re feeling ready to dedicate yourself to your craft, to make writing a serious goal, and to honor your own worth as a writer. I excel at helping writers to write in their true voices, to help bring out their strengths, and to work from the foundation of who you really are. It’s part of my own work in the world to help other writers shine.
No matter what anyone else says about who you are, take it with a grain of salt. Listen to your own inner voice, the true depth of who you are. Stop listening to fear as it needles you toward work that sucks your soul and steals your creativity. Listen instead to the part of you that giggles at the thought of accomplishing a dream, a goal, or a wish. Desire isn’t a dirty word, it’s a driving force in creating the life you are meant to live. If you’re ready to step into the light, contact me for help. I’m ready to hear from you.