On Being a Writer - What Nobody Told Me
originally posted on September 4, 2012
I've wanted to be an author since I was about...oh, five. Hardly an unusual story. Many of us with a yearning to write developed the urge early.
But the sad truth? I didn't even try to write until I was twenty-five. Two bloody decades later. My aspirations to be an author went the same way as many kids' aspirations to be an astronaut or the president. On the "dreamer" shelf. For most of my life, it was out of reach. But only because I let it be.
Here's what happened:
Like most lost souls at the end of their college career, the time leading up to graduation was awful. I didn't have a clue about how to get a job related to my major. I wasn't even sure I wanted to. And yes, that dream of writing full-time was still there, but I didn't voice it to a single soul. I was a penniless twenty-two year old with a bundle of student debts and facing the prospect of living on my own. My mind was very much focused on practical. Not dreams. In hindsight, I wish I would have gotten the practical job and started to write. But it didn't happen.
It wasn't until after my first year in the "big girl world" of slacks and button down shirts, and high heels and nine-to-five that the dream to write came up again. And yet I road-blocked myself again. I moaned to my fiancé that I didn't have time. That my stupid day-job was in the way. That publication was hard.
I distinctly remember him cheerfully suggesting that I try to write on the forty-five minute train ride to/from work. I scoffed. Puh-lease. I couldn't write like that. I needed quiet. I needed a desk. I needed time. Maybe a even new laptop! Surely I could write better with a laptop. Maybe an inspiring view of a lake...
So I pushed the writer thing was pushed aside. Again.
Fast forward two years, and although I had a great life and happy on the surface, something inside me was dying. All I could see was the rest of my life of doing more of my "day job." And I just kept thinking, this is it? Really? This is life?
And thanks to a cheerful kick in the butt from the wonderful Stratejoy, I figured out what my problem was. I wasn't doing what I wanted to do. Write. But worst of all? The only thing standing in the way was me.
And so finally, at age twenty-five, I started what I'd been dreaming of all along. I started a book. And finished it. And then started another one, and set that aside because it sucked. But then I tried again, and finished one more. And guess what? That fourth finished manuscript found it's way to a book deal.
To all you aspiring writers out there, I hope the above paragraph inspires you. But more than that, I hope you pay attention to all the stuff that became before my success story.
Because when you're reading other people's success stories and getting a case of the jealosies (I've been there), here's what you really need to know:
Writing is effing hard. Also rewarding. But so hard. Even for those of us that want to do it more than anything.
Do you know how many people have told me they want to write a book? Dozens. Do you know how many people have started a book? Three. How many have finished? One.
It's because even for those of us that "want to write," we sometimes don't. And we likely have a bevy of explanations of why we can't. Time, money, kids, career. But guess what? Everyone can write a book. Most of us just don't.
My advice in a nutshell? If you're dreaming of writing, and waiting for the right time, the right moment, the right inspiration, knock it off. Even for those of us who feel we're "destined" to write, it's not easy. It's not always enjoyable. There will be times when you'd rather be doing ANYTHING else. You have to write on the train. You have to wake up early. You have to stay up late. And there are trade-offs. It sometimes means finishing your latest chapter instead of vegging out and watching TV. It means leaving a birthday party a little early so you can finish revisions.
It's not going to get easier. You're not magically going to get more time unless you make the time.
You really want to write? Sit down. Shut up. Start writing. Now.
It's so worth it. I promise.