I learned to read and write at age five and immediately declared my life’s goal: to become a published author. I knew I was destined to write books, many books. And although I have fulfilled part of this promise with online articles and having stories selected for anthologies, I have yet to see my own book in print. Yet being the key word.
Over the past 37 years I’ve written thousands upon thousands of words. At age 10 I attempted my first novel and got up to 40 typed pages before losing steam. Next I took a short story I’d written at 15 and turned it into a novel, completing the final draft at age 27—talk about a looooooong process! I then submitted it to approximately 30 agents before losing momentum (in hindsight, that novel needed a lot more polishing).
Now at age 42, I continue to juggle countless works-in-progress:
- A young adult series about four kids who live at the end of a dead end in Tennessee
- A memoir about the hardships of growing up in the middle of Wisconsin in a log cabin without running water
- A humorous tale of my unfortunate dating experiences—working title “Freaks and Geeks”
- My most recent work—a fully complete and polished domestic suspense novel. Here’s the one-sentence pitch:
- After losing control and shaking her baby, a desperate, guilt-ridden young mother triggers an unnerving series of events that will pull her older partner, teenage babysitter, and others down a rabbit hole of paranoia, grief, wild accusations, and a police investigation that will alter their lives forever.
Needless to say, my dedication and commitment to this dream has remained relentless. I’ve learned what it takes to be a writer (sweat, hard-work, and embracing your introverted self) and continue to seek more knowledge through conferences, classes, writers’ groups, and more.
I’m sharing my progress with you in order to keep my dream alive. And to inspire any budding writers out there.
The bottom line: Your words matter.
Novels are Hard Work
All of my ideas started as a tingly spark, a cool idea, something that seemed like fun to explore. But after months, years, or decades of writing and revising, every project eventually transformed into a painful chore. This led to me stalling out, shelving the project, and moving on to the next. Thus, nothing ever got polished. Until now.
The real progress came when I switched my mindset: Writing is hard work. Just like a job, I learned to embrace it all—the good, the bad, the pretty, the ugly.
There’s the creative phase, where writing is easy and fun (at least for me). Then there’s the roll-up-your-sleeves, focus, and get sh*t done phase. The latter feels akin to taxes; it needs to be done, but dang, I’d much rather binge on Netflix. I’m talking about the final final final stages of a novel, when you say, “Oh, I’ll fix that part later” and then realize the time is now. The hard work needs to happen right now.
But why suffer for an unpaid passion???
Ah, but there’s a distinction between writing as a hobby and writing because it’s your livelihood. Did all those bestselling and successful authors give up? Nope, they didn’t. And neither will I.
I continue to treat my creative writing like a real job, as opposed to something I squeeze in during “free time” (uh, what’s that?). And, just like a real job, I need concrete deadlines.
Sure, I know my deadlines aren’t real. I even tell those involved in my process (my beta readers, my editor) that the deadlines are self-imposed and flexible. But I try to follow them because without structure and discipline, it’s easy to waste an hour scrolling through Facebook or searching for the perfect pair of jeans (guilty of both).
And just like how a deadline at work lights a fire under your butt, my self-imposed deadlines keep the momentum going. And when I want to give up, I look at my timeline.
The truth: There is no room in the schedule to slack off.
Believe in Your Story
Full disclosure: most creative folks are crippled with self doubt. There’s no real barometer to successfully measure passion-fueled work. It’s not concrete like math, where 2 + 2 will always equal 4 (I love that certainty). When it comes to literature, some will love it, some will hate it. This uncertainty can definitely stifle the creative process.
What if my novel is terrible? What if I fail? What if all this hard work is for nothing? What if…what if…what if…
I’ve learned to ignore that voice. I find comfort in connecting with other writers. I ask for their brutal feedback. And yes, that feedback often results in tears. And yes, that feedback often makes me want to hit “delete all.” But once I receive enough feedback that my story is working, I trust it. I trust myself.
I know I won’t please everyone. But if I can reach some people with my story, then it’s worth it. My story, just like yours, is worth sharing.
Don’t Give Up
Just keep writing. Just keep writing. Just keep writing.
I’ve pushed through the resistance. I’ve taken my current novel through nine revisions, two rounds of beta readers, and one professional edit—all while battling the urge to give up. My original deadline was to submit to agents in October 2021. It’s now mid-November 2021 and guess what? I’ve already submitted to nine agents. Gulp.
How did I get here? Commitment, hard-work, deadlines, perseverance, and trust. I’m totally doing this!
If I get distracted by social media or find myself spiraling down the rabbit hole of self-defeat and doubt, I reign myself back in. This is my work. This is my life purpose. This is my dream. Then I shut everything out—including that nasty, negative voice. And I dive right back in, time and time again.
Where are you in the writing process? Share your journey in the comments below or reach out via my contact page. And above all else, keep writing.