Writing was one of those things for me.
I grew up in a less than ideal home and I used writing as my outlet. Over time the journal entries and poems of my youth evolved into short stories. Not very good ones at first, but it was still satisfying to see the story in my mind come to life on the page. And yes, for those of you wondering…I do in fact carry on conversations with my characters. In what other profession is it possible to get paid for talking to your imaginary friends? Yeah, in most places they medicate you and introduce you to a little thing called a straitjacket!
But I kept my writing a secret. No one knew. Not my friends, not my family, not even my husband, a wonderful man I have been married to for almost 18 years! I never set out for it to be a secret. It’s not like I lead a double life as a secret agent or anything. I just never felt good enough, talented enough to make my deep, dark, crazy dream of being able to walk into a bookstore and one day see my name on the shelf a reality. So, I didn’t say anything.
Then about three years ago a friend asked me to be a beta reader for her manuscript. She knew I was an avid reader and I jumped at the opportunity to give her feedback. Boy, did she get more than she bargained for! Fortunately, she was so happy to get constructive feedback that she called me again and again to ask questions and get opinions. In return, I was thrilled to be involved with a real author; after all she had an agent. We worked well together and I quickly became her critique partner.
Since that fateful day, Anita Clenney has encouraged and cajoled me into coming out of the writer’s closet and embracing the insanity that is the publishing industry. I have written my first full-length manuscript and pitched it at the WRW Retreat. Although, I have been fortunate enough to receive multiple submission requests I now realize that it doesn’t matter. The true gift that my friend has given me is confidence in my own abilities. She has opened a door to an entire community of incredibly talented nut jobs that talk to their characters too.
My friends and family have been very supportive since my coming out. The first time my husband read an excerpt of my work he said, “Holy crap! I had no idea you could write like this!” and “Oh yeah, now that I know, can you edit my master’s thesis on water management in Europe?” For the record, I would rather edit an entire manuscript than his incredibly dry academic thesis again.
And by the way, my dream of seeing my name on the bookstore shelf came true April 29, 2011. My friend and critique partner, Anita Clenney, published Awaken the Highland Warrior (the first in a trilogy) and bless her heart, she dedicated it to me.
The point is we all come from different places and have taken different journeys to get where we are today. For some of us the path has been relatively easy, tripping over wonderful opportunities at every turn. For others, the road may have been wrought with challenge and constant reminders of past failures. But the question I ask is this–Have you ever looked back at your life and thought… Wow, that was so not worth it. I really wish I hadn’t tried. Or, do you more often look back and think… That was such a great opportunity. I wish I had learned to _____________. Or, I should have _____________.
At the end of the day, no matter what your journey is, put it all out on the line and see what happens. Because you miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take and along the way you short change yourself out of being who you’re meant to be.