From the time when I was small, I wanted to be a writer. I remember starting my first journal when I was in the fourth grade–when I didn’t have anything more interesting to say than a play by play version of the events of the day.
A few years of maturity gave me the added medium of poems (not very good ones I must admit!) and finally, in High School, I started my very first story. It was awful–and I knew it was awful. It was so awful that for a long time I convinced myself that my dream of being a writer was nothing more than a pipe dream.
I was a good writer in general; I knew that. Every professor I’d ever had told me I was a good writer. My poetry became better as I matured too, and I was even able to publish a few of them. By the time I wrote my master’s thesis, my professors were telling me I should consider publishing. I didn’t take them very seriously though. I was good at things like essays and poetry, but I just didn’t have what it took to write a novel, or so I thought.
Every time I thought of trying a novel, I thought back to that first failed attempt. I was a high school kid trying to write a historical fiction novel without any research…or any real concept of where it was heading. I just jumped in and started at the beginning. My dialogue was stilted, because I didn’t know who my characters were and I hadn’t had enough life experience to know how real conversations went…it was a train wreck!
Add to that my husband who is amazingly gifted and talented. He’s written a fantasy novel and I was his main editor. I marveled at his gift for dialogue and his ability to create a whole new world. My imagination didn’t work like that. I was talented, but not like he was talented.
For years I left it at that, but then I started to realize something. I knew a whole lot more about writing today than I did when I was a kid in High School. Dialogue wouldn’t be a struggle anymore because I knew how real adult conversations played out. Not only that, but I now understood that I needed a plan. And, though I wasn’t talented like my husband, I didn’t need to be. It was apples to oranges. My talent was going to be different than his, that didn’t mean it was less. It was just different.
So I began thinking of all the books I’ve read (and believe me, there are a ton of them) and I asked myself what made the best ones better than the others. I watched what they did. I watched their character development, I watched the dialogue, I watched how plot was built, and I watched how the best had something deeper going on beneath the surface–ways that the reader could relate to them and how they had the potential to change the reader or their outlook on the world.
I took all this knowledge and I thought of what I have so often heard stated–write about what you know. For this first story, I didn’t write a historical fiction, though someday I could see myself writing in the vein of Kate Morton or Susanna Kearsley, and I didn’t start with a fantasy or dystopian book (well, I have started one, but it’s on the back burner) though that tends to be my favorite genre, I started with what I know, and I spun out from reality and created something different. A character who resembles me, but who makes choices I didn’t make, who responds differently, and who almost loses everything before she realizes what she has.
And you know what, I think it’s good. I started my first book 25 years ago and almost gave up altogether, but I finally faced my fear of failure and tried again. And I’m really glad I did. I am 80% done (or there about) and I likely will finish in the next couple of weeks. And then I will have written a novel–one I actually believe is good. I know that is only the start of the road. The road to publishing and actually getting people to read the thing is one fraught with rejection, but I’m going to stick myself out there, and hopefully, someone will see a book with believing in.
So often in life, we think we can’t so we don’t try. Our early dreams fall by the wayside. Some we’ve outgrown, but some, some we bury because we think we can’t, but the reality is we don’t know what we can do until we try. I’m glad I tried–even if no one ever reads it, I’m glad I’ve taken the chance.
What is it for you? What dreams have you told yourself you can’t reach, or aren’t practical, or whatever excuse it is you apply to it? Is it one you’re really okay letting fall by the wayside? Or is it one that you will always regret not at least seeing if it might be possible?