I haven’t forgotten about you. I just didn’t want to face you. Not because I’ve been slacking. I’m proud to say slacking is not a characteristic of mine. I didn’t want to face you (not YOU specifically), but you, as in the world of social media. Usually when people say ‘you have to do it,’ I kindly or not-so-kindly say, ‘whatever’.
But here I am. And yes, I do have a Facebook page, but I have zero friends. Yes, that is correct. I am proud of that fact. (And less proud of the fact that even without any fb friends, I spend time learning about complete strangers’ lives…not good, or healthy.) I also joined Twitter today (WHAT? I know, right?) This is all very scary for me. I don’t really like being like everyone else. I loathe it (and yet, I know I’m way too normal not be just like everyone else).
But I thought about you today and wanted to let you know how my journey is going…here’s what I’ve been up to over the last six months.
- Finished a pantsers’ style draft (thank you, Stephen King). (Note: If you want to be a writer, read his book “On Writing”. It’s hysterical, insightful, and not scary at all (well, not gorey!)
- Took the online Story Genius class with Lisa Cron and Jenny Nash (10 weeks, plus 6 week extension). (Note to writers: Read Lisa Cron’s ‘Wired for Story’ and “Story Genius”!)
- Attended SCBWI Summer LA conference and went to intensives.
- Networked and have developed ongoing, collaborative friendships with other unpublished writers, as well as, published writers.
- Have stopped meeting weekly with writing group.
- Work on my writing each day of the week (I do take off most weekends).
- Gave my finished draft to a publish writer/friend and scraped it based on her feedback. (This was great because then I started from scratch and it feels a whole lot better.)
- This weekend I’ll attend the Children’s Writers’ Workshop in Big Sur. I’m carpooling with fellow writers I’ve never met!
So, I’ve been busy this last year. I’ve got four more (technically). The interesting thing I learned this summer in my Story Genius class (and with help from Angela Duckworth’s book “Grit” (Note to everyone: Read it): It really is the journey. I’m settling in. I’m not really in a hurry. I know it might very well take more than four years. I’m okay with that. I wasn’t when I started this. I felt pressure, but now something’s changed. I’m okay with failing, if you can even call it that, it’s really just trying to figure it all out. And I’m just excited to have the opportunity to be doing it.
I think I’ve just realized something…I’m afraid. Completely totally, pee in my pants scared. But I’m not so sure what I’m scared of. I feel as if my arms are tied behind my back. My mouth is gagged. My arms and feet twist and turn seeking freedom. I look around to my captors. They stand at the edge of the square room. Not one looks at me and I can’t even tell who they are or what they are exactly. The images of their faces and bodies are blurry. The darkness shadows them even more. Are they the nay-sayers? The unencouragers? The Debbie downers?
I strain my neck to look down at my wrists to see what is holding me back and that’s when I realize my wrists are free. My feet all as well. So, why the feeling of imprisonment? That’s what I’m trying to figure out.
I want to be an artist. Part of me has always wanted to be an artist. I am a writer (and even this title is still hard for me to say aloud). Labels have always gotten in the way for me. When I was growing up, my best friend was a writer. She was the writer. There wasn’t room for more than one, especially when I read her high school word choice in fourth grade. I was always fascinated with her ability to write, to capture moments, to express herself. She had something to say. I never felt like I did. Is that what scares me most? To realize I don’t really have anything to say. Maybe I don’t. Or maybe I do. Maybe I’m scared of what I have to say. Maybe I’m scared to say I left my husband for another man (and I’m scared for people to read this and judge me. All I can say is that if you’ve been in a relationship where you weren’t you, you might understand.) Maybe I’m scared to say I yell at my children and berate them and make both them and I and everyone else feel like shit. Maybe I’m scared to say I should call my 92-year-old grandma more but I don’t because she gets confused and she’ll die soon anyway, right? Am I already grieving for that loss? Maybe I’m scared to be compared to someone else. Maybe I’m scared I won’t be good enough and really I won’t be, I have zero experience. But is that okay? Fake it until you make it, right? And yet, I don’t even know enough to fake it. Why do I feel the need to create art? Writing comes so much easier. Why does the desire to create visual art constantly tap me on the shoulder? ‘Hey, yeah, we’re still here. What about just doing it?’
Over the last nine months (or probably for a decade or two), I’ve been on a path. It’s been dusty with thick overhanging trees. My boots or bare feet have been stuck at times. I’ve been completely lost other times. There have been signs, literal or figurative, I have followed. Others I have missed or ignored even. I’m just now realizing where I think the path might be leading me, or where I want it to lead me. Until now, the vulnerability of making a declaration and taking steps to support such a declaration has impacted my ability to be a serious writer. When I say ‘serious writer’ it sounds boring even to me. I suppose I want to be a ‘working writer,’ one who writes as work, and yet I’m really hoping it doesn’t feel like the kind of work I’ve been doing up until now.
The “Give me five” idea is this: I asked my husband to give me five years to work as a writer and therefore probably not earning any income for those five years. He said ‘yes,’ and hopes I’ll return the favor for him and his dreams of playing golf professionally one day. I agreed.
Now, the work starts. I’ve got five years to replace my previous teaching salary, which in the world of professional athletes and corporate executives is a pile of pennies. Allow my clarity though, I am not writing because I want to make money, just as I did not become a teacher to make money. I am simply asking the question of myself, can I work hard enough and create something someone would pay to read? Only time will tell. I have no idea and maybe that’s the fun of this whole thing.
So, here are the steps I have already taken:
- Joined a weekly writers’ group.
- Set goal to write a thousand words a day.
- Joined SCBWI organization (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators)
- Started this blog.
So, let’s go. Let’s get started. Let’s get these five years rolling! And please, if you have something to say, please say it. I would greatly appreciate any feedback, insights, criticism, encouragement you can offer.
“She wrote to save her life.” These are the first words I wrote at the beginning of January 2015, after I had taken a leave of absence from my teaching job mid-school year, once the kids and my teacher husband went back to school after the holiday break, when I realized I had to fill my time with more of the things I love.
Nine months later, I’m making a declaration. I am a writer. Even writing those words, my stomach leaps up and down. I am a writer. Am I trying to convince you or me? I am a writer. Can I turn this into a career where I can replace my teaching salary in the next five years? I am a writer. This is my story yet to be told, yet to be lived. There will be failures and you’ll be there to see them. You might even be there to point them out to me. I would be grateful. I need your feedback, your constructive criticism, your encouragement. Thank you for being on this journey with me.