And, with you as my witness, it did not happen overnight.
My grown daughter, mother-of-many, congratulated me, adding, “Mom, I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know you wanted to be a writer.”
And it hit me. That’s a lot of years to want to be something. I hadn’t realized I wanted it so much, for so long, that my children were aware of it. I know I hadn’t been doing what I should to make it happen.
It made me think about others who might face the same situation. If I had one thing to tell them, it would be this: Do not wait until you are the mother-of-a-mother-of-many to go after your dream.
But saying one thing is not my strength, so here is an entire list:
- Do not wait until [insert excuse here] to go after your dream. Don’t wait until you lose the weight, make a good living, raise the kids, finish college, go back to college, have your forever home, and on and on and on. Jump in where you are. I promise it will be worth it.
- Believe in yourself. When your teacher/parent/friend/sibling/co-worker told you that you were good at something, believe in that. Even if they didn’t, and your truest self knew it anyway, believe it. Believe it. They didn’t tell you that to be nice, and you didn’t know it, despite their oversight, because you were fooling yourself. You are good at it. And you will be better after a lot of hard work and trial and error. There is a spark of something—even if only a secret desire—that makes you different than the average bear. Embrace it. Believe it.
- You write, therefore, you are a writer. Think like one. Act like one. Be one. Don’t let the money factor stop you from thinking of yourself as a writer. Writers write. You are a writer. The other stuff will come if you just keep writing.
- Comparison is the thief of everything. I mean it. Stop comparing yourself to anyone. Just do your own time, in your own way. You may never write the stuff of Pulitzer prizes. That does not make your work unworthy. Your writing process might not be the same as someone else’s, but neither of you are wrong. There are better authors than you, and there are worse ones. Some of the worse ones make a good living at it. Just do you.
- Listen to those who have been where you are now, but also learn to trust your instincts. Yes! Learn from critique partners, contest judges, friends with more experience. But know that none of them understand your story and characters, and what you want out of them, more than you. Take in all the suggestions. Let them ruminate for a while. Make the changes if you want to, but don’t be afraid to change them again, when doing it your way feels better. Trust your gut. The first inspiration came to you, not to your mentors.
- Have the courage to be terrible. You know that talent thing? It’s way over-rated. The world is full of talented people who never sit down and write a darn book. Write yours. It will be terrible. ALL FIRST DRAFTS ARE TERRIBLE. (Look up Ernest Hemingway’s quote on first drafts. His career turned out okay, and every one of his first drafts, according to him, were steaming piles.) You can fix a bad page. You can’t fix a blank one. [—Jodi Picoult] Your terrible pages don’t have to stay that way. That’s what revisions are for, silly.
- It’s all about perseverance. If this writing thing is what you want, keep working at it. And when it’s time, query and submit the heck out of that puppy. It’s a numbers game. Very subjective. All you need to do is get it in front of the right person’s eyes once. It might take 100 wrong people first. And that’s okay. Or publish it yourself. It’s a marvelous time to be a writer.
This is just the first book. It’s not even published yet. I’ve got such a long way to go. But I’ve crossed a hurdle that kept me from legitimacy in my own mind for more years than I’d like to admit. And it feels amazing. If I can finally cross that hurdle, you can too.