What Happened to Me After I Started Writing

“The beginning is always today.” ― Mary Shelley

I’ve loved the written word for nearly as long as I can remember. From “reading” (a.k.a. reciting from memory) The Little Red Hen to my mother as a three-ish year old to submitting a 30+ page mini-novel in response to my eleventh grade English teacher’s short story assignment to earning a degree in creative writing — I love words. Reading them, writing them, or gluing them into my art journal, I am a word junkie.

So it may surprise you to hear that I’ve only been practicing a regular writing habit for the last eight years.

You see, from childhood, I operated under the misconception that writing only mattered if it was going to be seen by someone else. So any time I had any kind of a creative writing assignment in elementary school, high school, and beyond, I went all in on it.

But on my own time? I did a whole lot of nothing.

Well, that’s not true. I read. I glowered at new authors’ books as they blossomed on our local book shop’s shelves, full of resentment (I mean, really — who did they think they were publishing a book? the nerve!). I perused Writer’s Market and calls for submission, only to turn away in panic, because scary deadlines. I pined away for a publication contract of my own, but did little in the way of actually pursuing one. I listened to writing podcasts, but never implemented the advice I heard. I participated in (and won!) National Novel Writing Month, but never did anything with my rough drafts — even the ones that weren’t half bad.

So I did spend a whole lot of time and energy thinking about writing, and being jealous of others who were writing and publishing. But I also let fear shackle me.

Until 2007, when I started a blog.

It wasn’t my first blog (Livejournal of 2004, I’m looking at you), but it was my first serious attempt at one. And by “serious attempt,” I mean a space in which I wrote regularly, regardless of how many people were (or, more accurately, weren’t) reading it.

In short, I blogged for me.

And I kept doing it. For years. Eight years and counting at this point. My focus evolved over time (like, a lot — I started out as a food blogger), but still — I wrote and hit “publish” regularly.

At first, it felt weird. Even with a lifelong adoration of the written word and a degree (with honors!) in creative writing from a prestigious liberal arts college . . . it felt awkward. Clumsy. Like writing into a void (which, let’s be honest, is what a lot of internet writing is).

But I kept on. And, eventually, I noticed that things were different. I was different.

What Happened After I Started (and Kept) Writing

It took three or so years, but one day, I realized that I was stronger than I was before I started my little blog.

I was a better writer than I had been. My technique was better. The resulting posts were better.

I created connections. I made friends with other bloggers, participated in hops and challenges, and both wrote guest posts and published others’ words on my blog. In a word, I was supported.

I was much more confident. The blank page no longer seemed quite as intimidating. In fact, I was so much more confident that I self-published my first book. And that confidence bled into all areas of my life, not just my work as a writer.

I took myself more seriously. No longer did I long to be a writer — I was a writer. I was writing, regularly, and sharing my work with the world. Maybe I wasn’t the next Anne Lamott (yet…!) (#bigdreams), but I was doing the work.

And, eventually, all of this combined to give me the, ahem, balls and belief in my own work to self-publish not only a fun little romance, but also a born-of-my-bloody-heart poetry collection — a.k.a. to take my writer-self from hobbyist to professional.

All because I started writing — for myself.

How to Get From Here to There

I think so many of us who long with the fire of a thousand suns to Be A Professional Writer balk at taking the actual steps toward making that dream happen because the road seems so long.

And it is. I’m not going to lie to you — it’s a long road. Countless hours of dedicated work that most people will never know, pouring your soul into words that maybe no one will ever read.

But

long as it may be, that road is the way from here to your writer dreams turned reality.

And really, it’s worth it. Now, looking back at 8 years of being a writer who writes (on top of a degree, honors, and all that came before), I can see how worth it is. I mean — people have read and are reading my books. Maybe not thousands of people. Maybe not even hundreds of people. But people are reading my books, and my words have changed small pieces of the world, and my heart is filled with delicious fire that I’m doing this work.

That’s the dream, right? Regardless of audience size, that is the dream.

And your journey from here to living right into the middle of that dream?

It begins today.

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