Saturday, June 8, 2013
What Being a Writer Has Taught Me About Myself
As the years wore on, I settled into the life that I like to call "blissfully average." The idea of becoming famous dwindled by the wayside, but the desire to express my creative side grew. I had a musically-gifted friend who once told me that entire symphonies were swirling in her head just waiting to be released. That was exactly how I felt about writing stories.
But like so many, the need to put food on the table soon trumped the "hobbies" that could have kept me sane in a fast-forward, chaotic life. These hobbies laid dormant for many years as I focused on being a wife and mother to my husband and four children. There was precious little time for writing then, but the need to spill my thoughts and emotions onto the written page did not diminish. If anything, it increased exponentially. The Christmas family newsletter, the monthly non-profit column for moms and a few secret poems on my laptop were the only manifestations of this creativity that ever saw the light of day. And all the while, the characters and storylines that haunted the confines of my own head begged to be released from their virtual prison.
One particular story in my head grabbed ahold and refused to be ignored. It slowly simmered in the recesses of my brain for more than twenty years, waiting patiently for the day when I would finally be willing to share it. But even as my children grew older and there was more time for myself, I still managed to convince myself that I wasn't talented enough to write professionally. For the longest time, little voices in my head had the upper hand as the epic tales of fascinating worlds and captivating characters were suppressed somewhere deep in no man's land.
You see, I had been trapped into believing the unspoken yet common myth among writers that my stories, while very entertaining, were never good enough for public consumption. With over 2.2 million books published each year worldwide, how could I even dare to assume that anyone would be interested in reading what I had to say? To actually attempt publication of one's novel was simply audacious and a fool's errand to say the very least.
Then, in 2010 at the age of forty-two, I had an epiphany. I could write down my stories just for myself. And if I liked them, I might consider sharing them with one or two of my closest family members, but further than that, I drew the line. Once the story that had been trapped in my head for more than two decades came bleeding out, there was no turning back. But then I made the critical error of allowing my sister and good friend to read my novel. They actually had the nerve to say that the story deserved to be shared with the entire world. And the whole time I still told myself that I didn't have what it takes to be a writer, let alone a published author.
It was a long time coming, but my debut novel was finally published this year. And shortly after, the other voices in my head that had long been kept silent were vindicated and finally allowed to cheer. Not because I might become rich and famous and not because I could call myself a published author, but because I had conquered my own worst enemy--me. All along it hadn't been other people who had convinced me I couldn't write, it had been myself. And for once, I was happy to prove myself wrong.
I may not be a famous celebrity, but that hasn't mattered to me for my whole adult life. Doing what I love (i.e. writing) does. And yet, my life isn't over yet. As long as I breathe (and maybe even after) I will still dare to dream that my stories might possibly make the bestseller's list!