Everyone’s career as a starting point. No one starts out in the place they want to be. It takes time. It takes energy and it takes patience.
My journey into writing started years ago when I was a child. I have always loved telling stories. I’d tell stories to stuffed animals, my siblings and even my parents. My mind was constantly creating worlds and characters. To my delight, my parents put me into theatre which allowed me to transform into other writers’ characters. That didn’t, however, satisfy my need to share my own stories with others.
Beginning to Write
I started writing stories whenever I had access to paper and a pencil. I would stuff fresh sheets of paper into a binder and carefully design a terribly drawn book cover. I was a child and don’t have the gifts of an artist. I’d carefully write out the title of “Chapter One” at the top of the page and begin to write my story. Imagine how excited I was to see the words on the page. It was my story and I thought it was going to be on bookshelves one day. And then, I made a mistake and I needed to use an eraser. That eraser would leave a grey smudge on the otherwise perfect page of prose.
I became frustrated and being a perfectionist, that page had to come out of the binder. That meant, rewriting everything that was on the “ruined” page. I was no longer creating. I was copying what I created and that meant forgetting the next part of the story that was yet to be written.
This was how I started. Frustrated over not getting it right the first time.
Being a Perfectionist Kept Me From Writing
My desire to get it right continued into my teen years. I didn’t want anyone to see what I was writing when it was in its drafted state. I would hide my writing away, fearful that someone would read it before it was ready to be revealed and they’d tell me it wasn’t good enough. No one knew I was writing. I had no one to keep me going and encourage me. Eventually, my writing fizzled out. I stopped and didn’t return to it until after I was married with six kids.
That’s right, I stopped writing for almost 20 years. Now, I could look at those 20 years as time wasted, or I could view it as a time of growth. I gained more skill, gained more life experience, gained more confidence in myself and grew thicker skin. During that time, I reached a point in my life where I was ready to share my writing with others. I was able to silence the perfectionist and be willing to draft, edit and let others give their feedback.
Becoming a Writer Took Time
Even though I waited 20 years to release my first novel, I spent two years working on my manuscript. Part of that time was spent training myself to turn off my internal critic. I had to focus strictly on getting the story out onto the page without stopping to edit a sentence. I had to let the editing phase do its job and that meant having something completed that I could edit.
The first draft of “A Shot at Peace” took just under a year to onto the page. The final chapters took longer as my anxiety grew. I had committed myself to letting someone read it when it was finished and delaying the last few chapters meant delaying receiving feedback. But, I persevered. My novel was finished and went through several edits. I edited it at least twice before I handed it off to be beta read, then off to an editor, and finally off for proofreading.
Feedback Resulted in Growth
As anxious as I was to receive feedback, it was another opportunity for growth for me as a writer. It was no longer about me protecting my work from the curious eyes of others. I was sharing it and giving others the opportunity to help me improve. That is ultimately what every writer should want. Over time, a writer should be able to look back at their work as see a progression.
I now look at the first draft of “A Shot at Peace” and see a very different style than the final released copy. It wouldn’t be the book it is now had I tried to do it on my own without allowing others to share with me where they saw plot holes or where they felt there needed to be a little more backstory. I wanted to put a book out there I could be proud of. If I kept it hidden away before secretly releasing it, the novel wouldn’t have been given the development opportunities it needed. That came from feedback.
The greatest development was within me. I was able to accept praise from those who complimented my book. I was able to take the criticism of areas that needed improvement and rework sections that needed to be addressed. I didn’t let perfectionism get in the way that could have convinced me to shove the manuscript in a drawer, never to be seen again. I took the criticism and I worked through it.
What Kind of Writer Am I Now?
I am a faster writer. I am a writer that no longer is afraid to share my work. I am proud to say that I have released a book into the world. I can spit out the first draft and turn off the internal critic. In fact, I am so much faster than I was before that I am struggling to keep up with myself. I need to now edit the stories that have completed. I consider that a good problem to have.
So, How Did I Become a Writer?
Hard work and patience with myself and the process. I let the stories I wanted to tell pour out onto the page by removing whatever roadblocks were in the way. Now, I am working on becoming a better writer through reading others’ works and by putting, even more, words to the page. It is an ongoing journey, but one I am excited to be on.