This month marks one year since a story I wrote was published, a first for me as an author. It’s a true story about friendship that appeared in the Reader’s Write section of the February 2010 edition of the Sun Magazine.
How long have I been a writer? I get asked this question from time to time. The answer isn’t a simple one. First of all I believe a writer, is a writer their entire lives. Even if they never put together a story book when they were young, or kept a journal as a teen. One who becomes a writer as an adult, has always been a writer on the inside.
I’ve read interviews with several well known authors who talk about how they wrote stories from the time they could hold a pencil. At first this gave me pause. I didn’t write stories when I was that young, maybe I won’t measure up to these people who knew they wanted to be writers since infancy. I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until much later, and in fact scoffed when others told me I could be. Now I know that was just my introverted personality talking.
Anyone who knows me now is no doubt laughing at the thought of me being shy, but it’s true. I was an extremely nervous child, to the point of making myself ill at times. Even as an adult, I was terrified of new people, and new situations. I didn’t go anywhere by myself, I always convinced my husband, or friends, to go along. I was afraid of getting lost, or looking stupid, or saying the wrong thing.
Several things changed that. First and foremost was the birth, life and passing of my son. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that can give you better perspective on what’s truly important in life than losing a child. And there is no example greater of bravery than the daily struggle my son went through for 16 years. As the mother of a child who couldn’t speak, I had to step up and be his voice. I often had to fight to get him what he needed. I couldn’t afford to be shy anymore.
Still, that was different. I’d developed a fierce attitude when it came to my children, but still deferred to others when it came to myself. I was a born follower which meant even if I felt strongly about something, if the rest of the group felt differently I would go along with it, doubting myself along the way. Knowing just how much my actions were influenced by my desire to be accepted, I am incredibly lucky and amazed that I came out of my teen years in one piece.
Once my job as parent became less of a focus, I found myself adrift. I’d developed the ability to assert myself even if it was only in my children’s interest. I couldn’t just shut that off and be the meek person I’d been before. I needed to find something I could be passionate about. I’d always loved planning theme parties, and looked into becoming an event planner. I had experience as a secretary and looked for jobs that might be related. I loved to cook and considered catering. I’d always loved reading, and dabbled a bit in writing for my own personal enjoyment and it had been suggested more than once that I try writing. I started a bit of research.
I found a class titled “Writing for Publication” at our local technical college. I remember the sense of excitement at the thought of taking the class. I also remember the fear when I actually did sign up. Seems silly that anyone should be fearful about taking a non-credit class, but that’s how I’m wired. The difference is now I understand my fear and fight to not let it take over. I couldn’t be happier that I didn’t give in to my nagging self-doubt. I set goals for myself. I would go to class, and I would always bring some writing to share despite the fact that it wasn’t required. It’s very similar to setting a goal to exercise and lose weight and to stick with it despite feeling tired or sore or hungry. I have to push myself to do things I’d normally avoid regardless of how much they set my stomach in knots. I set the goal that I’d actually send my writing out and try to get published. After six months I got that first acceptance letter, and after only one year as an aspiring author, I became a published one.
In hindsight, I’ve enjoyed the written word since very young. I was a voracious reader. I didn’t write stories, but I certainly made them up in my head. I was always thinking and as that shy child was often alone, with only my imagination to entertain me. I’d always had pen pals and enjoyed writing long letters. It was required that I join clubs in school – and the clubs I chose? The school newspaper and the yearbook committee. As an adult, I wrote Christmas letters every year, and I wrote letters to out of state family and friends. I was always more comfortable writing than speaking. I’m still terrible at keeping a journal but I still have my wild imagination, and now I have determination. Determination to be myself, and to overcome my fears. Fears that I understand will never truly go away, but can certainly be managed.
So how long have I been a writer? I’m in my seventh semester of writing classes. I’ve been actively pursuing a writing career for two years. I’ve been a published author for one year (not counting the articles I wrote for the school newspaper). But I have undoubtedly been a writer my whole life, I just didn’t know it. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else. Just like exercise, once I pushed past the pain, I got a rush like no other. I have never been happier in my own skin as I am now.
Later this week I will post the story that was accepted and published by the Sun Magazine. I will post the full version for you; their editors were ruthless. Despite the pain of the amputation of a good portion of my story, I was and still am incredibly proud of making this milestone. And despite any fears (and yes they’re still there), I am determined to make many more.
I’ve been a writer forever and intend to be a writer until my time is done.