For those of you who believe writing is typing away at a computer, in a plush office, with no distractions and limitless inspiration, I’m about to burst your delusional bubble.
All writers have it. The dream. The ideal. The picture in our minds of what our writing space will look like when we “arrive.” Mine has a view like this:
And of course the dream office overlooking those views looks like this:
With a few modifications, of course, like this chair:
Don’t get me wrong. I love my cozy little writing space.
I have a view of our street.
And access to my favorite spot on the couch.
It’s a piece of my own Northern Californian Paradise.
When I started writing, I longed to quit my day job and dedicate all my extra hours to writing my masterpiece. I couldn’t then, but I took snippets of time to write scenes as they came to me, with no direction but the vague storyline from a dream I had in the third grade. Often self-doubt would pummel me so hard I couldn’t think. Can I do this? Am I cut out for this? What if I suck?
That’s the thing. Everyone sucks when they first start. I had no creative writing degree, no MFA feather to stick in my hat. I sucked. Hands down. I didn’t know it then, but I did know my writing was missing something published authors had. I just couldn’t put my finger on what that was. Still, I wrote an entire novel. Found a copy editor. Submitted my manuscript to Penguin’s Breakout Novel contest and got through three rounds.
Everything changed when I attended my first writers conference. You see, I was one of those people terrified of criticism. Words pierce me through. They still do. I knew if I ever plucked up the courage to attend everyone would laugh at me, they would wag their fingers in my face and cackle like the Wicked Witch of the West at my pure audacity to ever dream of being an author.
Of course, they didn’t. In fact, attending that first conference catapulted me to new heights in my craft. I learned writing books and blogs exist (how did I write for five years without this knowledge?!!). I met a few publishers and agents and true blue authors. Suddenly, the writing profession didn’t seem so hidden, so shrouded in mystery. These people were real. Down to earth. They bled and felt and stressed just like me.
I spent the next few years giving myself an education (see my top mentors here), rewriting my first novel, stashing said novel in the proverbial drawer, then began writing Gatekeeper. After two and a half years writing and rewriting and editing and laboring, Gatekeeper is finally complete. And wonder of all wonders, I’m proud of it!
My point is, if you’re starting out, like me, you probably suck, so embrace it! But if this is your dream, don’t quit! Sure talent helps, having a knack to spin a good story won’t hurt you, but this writing thing is a learned art. It takes effort. It takes heart. And it takes every bit of the stamina and determination and grit that you don’t believe you have. But if you keep trying, keep improving, keep putting on your “I’m teachable” t-shirt, then you’ll learn and improve and one day you just might publish something. I sure hope I do!