Dream

:: How Did You Become A Writer? ::

* This post is in response to a writing prompt from DIY MFA Book Club which I wrote about here.

I didn’t set out to become a writer. It sort of sought me out.

It is said that we often don’t see the correlation between our chosen career path and what we are called to do until we look back over our job history and work experiences. This is certainly true for me. I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until about 2010 when I discovered that I had two non-fiction book ideas floating around in my head. One was about dreadlocks with a working title of A Head Full of Dreads and Nothing to Wear (no, I’m not kidding) and the other was a cookbook that focused on bean recipes and was titled something along the lines of Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit. (Also, not kidding.)

In 2010, I was laid-off from a job in the fire service. I’d spend the previous five years in the role of Community Liaison Specialist and Public Information Officer where my duties included writing press releases, public service announcements, and an endless array of material for publications on fire prevention. Prior to that, I’d spent about eight years working for a radio station where I wrote news stories and advertising copy.

A throwback to my fire service days. (The house behind me was being burned down intentionally, FYI.)

Following the layoff, I started teaching yoga and created a monthly newsletter that included articles about the practice or specific poses that I sent out to my students. In early 2013, I started training for my first marathon and subsequently started a blog to chronicle the journey which I kept active until the end of 2016. I was also asked from time-to-time to help write things for family and friends; copy for a website my brother was building, an obituary for my husband’s grandmother upon her passing, a guest post for a friends blog, race previews for Run Oregon.

All the while, I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

At some point in 2015, it became clear. What I was meant to do, I had already been doing for years! Regardless of job titles, I had always found a way to weave writing into my duties whether it was asked for of the position or not. Writing gave me joy and it seemed to come naturally. In fact, one of the best compliments – albeit slightly backhanded – I ever received was from the Fire Chief I worked under. He once said to me that “despite not having a college education, you’re a pretty good writer.” That comment has stuck with me all of these years and I still try to live up to that praise.

Writing – with the ultimate goal of being a published author – is now how I dream of spending my days.

 

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::Neither Did I::

The highs of writing a manuscript are high. I relish the breakthroughs, the development of the characters and plot, the moments when the words flow freely… The lows of writing a manuscript are low. I am stricken with self-doubt, uncertain that I, with words alone, can paint a clear picture of these characters and the world they live in. And then there are the moments when the words don’t flow and I am stuck and searching.

It is an overwhelming process and I have to fight the urge to shift, reshape, and edit the work I’ve completed so far. I know better. The first draft is the worst draft. It becomes the guide for future drafts and that’s when the story truly unfolds. The only job I have right now is to get the story out of my head and onto paper, or a Word document, as it were.

I spoke with a dear friend a few days ago and told her I was working on a manuscript, covering the basic synopsis; “it’s a historical fiction piece, based in Los Angeles at the turn of the 19th century and inspired by true events.” In the most endearing way possible, she said to me that she didn’t know I had it in me to write a novel. I replied, “neither did I.”

However, every so often, after I’ve managed to string together a series of words that come from some unknown well inside of me, I sit back and read what I wrote. There are some nuggets good enough to make me believe that I do have it in me to write this book. To tell the story I want to tell. To show up day after day. To face the fear. To dream that it will get published. To share the work that I feel I have been given the privilege to do.

::measuring success::

Podcasts have recently become my “thing”. I love listening to stories about how others have foregone the norm to seek a fulfilling, creative life. Or found success with the development of some awesome new idea, product or service. Or have altered behaviors to overcome challenges holding them back. You get the idea.

A recent podcast I listened to on The Good Life Project talked about how we measure success. For those of us, like me, who have an entrepreneurial spirit, we want it all now, now, NOW! The visions I’ve created for the life I want are so close that I can practically taste them. However, I’m not there just quite yet and that sometimes feels like the opposite of success. When you want something so badly and feel you are on the verge of it becoming your reality but, alas, you’re still hustling and trying to figure it all out and sometimes it feels like failure…

The whole point of this was that I wanted to share the message that I received from that podcast and that is this: sometimes we have to redefine what success is. Sometimes it’s not a single point that we reach after a period of hard work. (Admittedly, sometimes it is. But not always.) I’ve started to reframe my definition of success and by doing that I, I’ve realized that success can be measured by what we learn along the way.

For years and years, through job transitions and financial hardships and relocating and… the list goes on, all I’ve know is that I wanted to write and that dream is still very much alive and well inside of me. I want to offer freelance writing services to help others build their businesses. I want to open up one of my favorite magazines and see an article I wrote. I fantasize daily about seeing my book on display at a bookstore. I dream about having lunch with my literary agent to discuss my next book deal and planning the promotional tour. I look forward to receiving an invitation to be a guest on a podcast.

Am I there yet? Frankly, the answer is no. Not even close. But I’m working on it. And that, my friends, is how I’m measuring my success. After all these years, I still want it and I’m still working to make these dreams and goals a reality.

Looking back, I’ve learned so much. Looking ahead, I’m excited about what I have yet to learn. From here on out, that is how I’m going to measure success.

HR