Once Upon a Time, I Was a Terrible Writer

Once upon a time, I was a young writer filled with doubt. For years in high school, I wrote terrible poetry with my friends, pages and pages of it. I filled notebooks with my miserable poems, and occasionally wrote short stories that were also terrible. But I kept writing because it called to me. From the very beginning when I was 15, writing felt like home. Nothing else filled me up the way writing did. I kept writing because I felt driven to do it, and because it made me feel alive.

At first, I didn’t like showing my writing to anyone other than my most trusted friends. I felt like my work lacked skill, but what I really lacked was confidence. Even when my writing was good and my English teachers and writing teachers praised my work, I didn’t believe them. Instead of hearing the praise, I was busy comparing myself to famous authors, people who I wanted to emulate.

I remember spending hours and hours in libraries, reading beautiful poetry from authors like e.e. cummings, Maya Angelou, Leonard Cohen, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Many hours were spent sitting in the aisles of libraries in my teens and early 20s, copying poems and phrases into my notebooks, imitating the masters I so wished I could be. My writing got better from the practice, and I eventually developed my own voice.

Even though I got brave enough to read my poetry in public venues, I inwardly felt like a faker. My lack of confidence in myself did not reflect the truth of my hard work, and I wasted more than a decade hiding behind fear, keeping my writing hidden because I didn’t believe it was good enough. This same lack of confidence made me believe I could never write a novel, even though I had ideas floating in my head. It seemed like too big a project, and it overwhelmed me.

Finally, an idea for a novel grabbed me by the ears and forced itself through my hand, pouring onto the pages of a notebook. I eventually typed it all into my computer, and then printed it. A few people read it for me, and gave me feedback. It wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t a bestseller either, but it was my first novel. I had written a whole book, and for the first time in my life I actually felt like a real writer. That was the turning point of my writing career, but it took me many, many years to get to the point that I published.

Once that first novel was done, I began working steadily on other stories. My head exploded with ideas, so many I could barely keep up with them all. Suddenly the flood gates opened, and my brain whizzed. Story after story wanted to be birthed, and I kept writing, but I was also raising children and working while trying to hold a broken marriage together. My priorities were a mess, and I wasn’t dedicated to consistent writing.

Eventually I straightened out my personal life, but an old friend from high school inspired me on Facebook one day when he shared a post about finishing his year of dedicated writing every day. For a whole year he had written 1,000 words a day. It got me thinking. He was going to start a new year of writing, so I told him I would join him in writing 500 words a day for the next year. That was another turning point for my writing career.

In that year, I discovered the beauty of consistency and honoring my craft. Every day I wrote, regardless of how good or bad, regardless of whether or not I felt inspired. Sometimes I found myself writing at midnight because I hadn’t made time earlier in the day, but I did it. I honored my choice to write daily, and I kept my promise, posting to Facebook every day after I completed my task. People began responding to my posts, encouraging me, and I completed project after project, story after story. My work got better at a faster rate than ever, and I was getting responses to my queries to publish.

Whilst on the wave of my new-found confidence, I began to research what I needed to do to get published. It became clear to me, however, that even if I was published by a massive publishing house, I was likely to be on my own for marketing my work. Without a huge following of readers, my books would probably never get published, or they might be published and pulled quickly from print. What really disturbed me was the fact that the publishing houses would own the rights to my writing, not me. I decided to take ownership of my process, and went indie.

This decision changed my life. I sought out other authors who had gone indie and had successful careers. I hired an editor to help me polish my writing. I figured out how to build a website, and I started a blog. A smattering of people paid attention, and I got wonderful feedback. None of it was really done well, but I did it. It took me a long time to realize all my messaging was wrong, and I was all over the place with what I was producing. We all have to start somewhere.

Now I have three books published, with a fourth on the way. I have a goal to publish 10 books in five years, and I am on track to complete it with flying colors. My computer is loaded with stories, files and files of novels and ideas, and I still write regularly no matter what else is happening in my life. As I grow in my authorship, I keep practicing and improving—that’s what all writers do, even the best sellers.

No matter where you are in your writing career, I want you to know that I see you out there, working hard, feeling afraid, holding back. I hope you read this and realize it’s okay to be afraid, but please don’t let it stop you from sharing your work with the world. Your work is important, and your voice deserves to be heard. If you want help, I am here. I became a teacher a long time ago because I love helping other writers make their writing shine, and I got very good at it because it’s important to me.

If you are uncertain about stepping into the limelight, if you’re scared to hit the “publish” button, I know your pain. It can be paralyzing to let others read your writing because it’s such a personal piece of yourself, but I learned how to get past that and accept what comes. If you need help with your confidence, or you need an editor who works with your strengths, I’m here. Ignore those other writers who don’t want your competition. There’s enough room in the world for every writer driven to share their work, and your writing deserves its time.

It took me 30 years to accept my purpose. Please don’t wait that long. Contact me if you need the outstretched hand. If you’ve dedicated hours, written daily, researched madly, and know you have what it takes to be a published author, I see you. If you need an honest editor or coach who truly has the training to make your work its best while cheering you onward, send me an email. I would love to help. Even though writing can be lonely, you’re not alone. We can do this together if you’re ready.

 

 

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