You know how some things are a secret? Like the chocolate stash behind the canned vegetables at the back of the pantry. Yep, no danger of anyone finding the mini candy bars hidden there in my house.
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.
14 thoughts on “Who Are You Meant To Be?”
Thank you for this post, Dana! I am humbled and inspired by your passion. I am so happy you were able to bring your secret out into the light. It seems fitting that this post came after Kim’s post on best friends, as you and Anita seem to have a remarkable and truly special friendship.
Awwww. You made me tear up. I love that you’re so willing to put the scary part out there and that you found such a great CP in Anita (love her book, tore right through it). I remember when I sent off my RWA membership application. I had butterflies putting it in the mail. I thought, “Yep, I have to admit to being a real writer now.” It’s an awesome and freaky feeling, which you summed up perfectly. Yeah you! 🙂
I think you’re right. I really didn’t have any idea what I was going to write about until yesterday when I read Kim’s post. After reading it and all the awesome comments I started thinking about how friends influence our lives.
It’s crazy! Anita and I worked together on a preschool board and knew each other for YEARS, emailing back and forth, before I knew that she wrote. But I think timing is everything. When I was ready to embrace my secret passion, and do something more with it, God put Anita in my path to make sure I got where I was supposed to be.
Then again, maybe I’m just stubborn. You’re talking to a woman who dumped her husband three times over five years before I was ready to settle down into a committed relationship. Now we’ve been married almost 18 years.
I, too, was a closet writer. I started a manuscript many, many years ago, and then I hid it literally under my bed for YEARS to move along with my “real life”. When I finally pulled it back out, it wasn’t wonderful. But, I’ve learned to write in a different genre, which I love, and I’m finally ADMITTING that I write. It was a bit embarrassing at first because the first question people ask is inevitably, “When will your books be out?” So, now that I’m out of the closet–so to speak–I’d love for my books to get out of there as well. LOL.
You’re right about putting yourself out there and giving it 100%. I never really get caught up in past mistakes or the “I wish I hadn’t done….” I get more upset with myself for the things I never did or abandoned. You can never give up on a dream because they have ways of pulling you back in.
I think it’s soooo wonderful that you have a friend like Anita. So, I’ll leave with the words of Emily Kimbrough in honor of your friendship: “Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.”
Thanks Avery, and you’re right, it is scary. Putting that part of yourself that no one else ever sees on the page and then letting someone else READ it! My God we must all be crazy!!! 🙂
But it is so rewarding to develop your craft and then get to that place we all dream of where someone comes up to you and says, “I loved your book.” Or, that totally surreal feeling Anita and I both got in Boonsboro when the Assistant Manager of Turn the Page came up and told Anita how much she loved her book and quoted a scene from it! Then you think, wow it was all worth it.
Wow – great post! And I needed to read it because I’m taking a step out of the “closet” today. I am sending out my first submission on my current W.I.P. Ah, nerves! No one at my day job is getting why I’m a bit out of sorts. And my characters are screaming at me in my head. So glad I’m not the only one! 😉
Yeah!!!! Good luck girlie!
I’m glad to hear I’m not the only closet writer out there!
It’s hard to bare your soul to others and that’s what sharing your writing does. But in the end I decided I would rather know that I tried, whether my writing is good enough to ever be published or not, than to never try and never know.
I feel so fortunate to have found my way into such a talented and wonderful group as WRW. It’s nice to find friends that understand my quirky side and will support me when I’m ranting at my characters for not doing what they’re supposed to. 🙂
You are soooo not the only one! I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for you.
Yea, Kerri! So excited for you and good luck!!!
Dana, I also think that once you put your mind on something, the universe has a way of responding and “coincidentally” dropping in your lap the very thing you need to keep going.
I. LOVE. THIS. POST!
Dana – I am also a closet writer for many years but only b/c I didn’t want to share it with anyone – it was mine – my escape. My hubby told me to do something with my writing. So, glad he did.
And, that Anita is a sweetie.
Thanks Carlene! Robin, I suspect we have many more in the the closet writer sisterhood. Anita really is a sweetie, I feel so fortunate to have her in my life!
What a lovely story about you and Anita – who I consider one of the kindest, engaging, writer gals I’ve meant at WRW. From your post, it appears you two make an ideal pair. I’m thrilled to be able to get to know you better.
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