For years I was greatly discouraged from any kind of career path that wasn’t deemed “professional”. My mother spent a majority of her life as a stay at home mom, and did a temporary stint as a flight attendant. My dad has been a truck driver for over 30 years.
I think a lot of us have grown with the expectations of having a steady job, regular paychecks. If you weren’t aiming for something along those lines, your family was disappointed – And that’s putting it in the best of terms.
Their input didn’t really bother me all that much, though, and a majority of the discouragement came from my mother. In later years now, my dad has been one of my biggest cheerleaders, and constantly encourages me through every step. It’s been a breath of fresh air in comparison to what I’m used to dealing with.
But it was an accumulation of things that ended up bringing me to this point.
The first piece I ever wrote was back in elementary school. I used a stamp set I’d gotten for one of my birthdays to create my illustrations; in my head, one day I could pay someone else to do it. The important part to me was the story.
I wrote about a young foal who got transferred to a zoo, and how she would interact with the other animals. They taught her what it meant to be a zoo animal.
This was a piece I was very proud of, and I figured it worked well as a kid’s story. At the time, my logic was – who better to write lit for kids than a kid? It was a revolutionary idea in my mind, so when my homeroom teacher told us one of our classmates parents was coming to talk about what it was like to be an author? I was stoked.
I brought my story with me to class that day, and waited patiently for the end of the talk. I don’t remember much from it – I don’t recollect most memories from childhood period. This one just somehow stood out to me.
Once the author was done speaking, I went up to her. The shy young girl I was, I went up to her the way I would approach the CEO at my current company (which, side note, I have not done once). She was an authority figure, so wise, and so talented, but in that moment? I thought I could be just like her. I was going to be.
I told her that I’d written something, and asked if she would read it and tell me if it was good. I wanted to know if I could publish it, or if I needed to fix some things (even if little me thought it was perfect at the time).
She gave me a small smile, took the book I’d stapled together, said okay.
And that was it.
I never heard back about that book. I tried speaking to my classmate about it, but was never answered. To a young child? That is crushing. I remember wanting so desperately to have my work validated in some way, but all I was left with was, well, my work gone. In retrospect, I think I far would have preferred she just say no and let me keep it to look back on. Now? It’s lost forever.
Then there was my mother, but she didn’t play into it much. I had a system with her, which was just tuning out all the bad stuff. There was so much to tune out on a daily basis, it went in one ear and out the other.
The other person who crushed my dreams, though? Was my sister.
My older sister had been working hard to become an author, and has been writing for years. I know because she told me about how long she’d been doing it constantly. She’s published now, and fairly successful, and I’m happy for her getting to where she wanted to go.
That said, she caused the biggest crack in my creative side.
I lived with her for quite a few years after some unfortunate circumstances with the family, and we would talk quite a bit. She lent me books that let me discover exactly what kind of genres I really liked, and whenever I had time? I wrote.
I was just as determined to be published as she was by the time I was a teenager. The whole children’s book affair from when I was small? It was a distant memory.
But each time I asked what I needed to do, the answers were vague if non-existent. And each time, of course, they were very discouraging. I was given a multitude of reasons why I couldn’t do what she did; she’d been doing it for over 10 years, I would need to hire an editor, if I wanted to get published the company would have to like my work but they’d very likely reject it.
On, and on, and on, and on it went.
I took the information to heart at first, because many of the things she said were true. There would definitely be hoops I would need to jump to make it, but I was always willing to put in the work.
One thing I truly struggled with was finishing the stories I started, and that’s still something I have trouble with today. The way I would write was, I would start a piece and write a huge chunk of the story within an hour or so. Would get tired and take a break, as writers do. Maybe a day or so. Then I would go back and reread my work.
Now, this was super self-destructive, because even at that age I was self-critical of my work. Whether it was homework or anything else, if I couldn’t do it perfectly? I wouldn’t do it.
And each time I reread a piece I had started, I grew to hate it. I would think awful things and throw it away, or when tech was more of a thing, I would delete it. Out of sight, out of mind. I struggled for years to actually get past 10 pages of any piece I wrote. It was difficult, and I was discouraged each time I failed.
For a while, I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it, and I was always worried about what I would do in life.
Despite all the options I had, I didn’t want to do most of them. It’s so unreasonable to look at a teen and go “hey, pick the job you’re going to do for the rest of your life. Like, now. Because you need to immediately go to college if you want to get there”. I was stressed, and started looking into a variety of options related to writing; journalism, editing, proofreading. Things I would like doing.
Despite looking into those options, though, I still wanted to write. I wanted to be a published author.
I tried again, and eventually?
I finished a piece!
I don’t recall much of the story, except the title “Moon Child”, and the premise; it had been meant to be a story about a girl, destined to do great things as prophesized by a deity of the moon. Pretty similar to a lot of the “chosen one” and “destiny” books we have today, but that’s what I was going with.
Proud of my accomplishment, I immediately went straight to my sister and told her I’d done it. I told her it would be an honor if she could read it for me and give me feedback.
She said she would, and I eagerly waited weeks for her to get to it. After all, she was busy doing her own writing and likely didn’t have the time. But I could be patient, I could wait. I had already waited this long.
I didn’t get anything for a couple of months, and asked about it. Was told to wait more.
That was fine, I could wait.
But you know how it goes; you get to the point where you stop asking. Because you know it isn’t going to happen. The pretty words about getting to it eventually? They’re all lies.
It was exactly this that ended my love of writing for the longest time. I was so discouraged that the one person I had idolized, and had encouraged myself over the years, had left me behind in the dust. I have no idea why it was, but that seemed to be the end of my story.
Come more recent times, and I’m invited to write in an Anthology.
I didn’t know the author personally, but they’re a friend of a friend, and it was my friend who invited me to join in. The premise was those with mental illness writing stories, or poems, or whatever they had in their minds.
I wasn’t sure I would actually write anything at first, but I had a few months to think about it, stew it over.
One night was particularly hard for me, and I ended up writing. It felt weird to do it after so long having left it aside. I’d used the skill, sure, but not for creative writing; I’d used it as an advantage in my current field of work. I can write amazing reports and emails, all because I’ve been writing for so long.
But when I started to write that night, I didn’t stop.
The idea behind the story was telling my intended audience about, well, me. My life, what led to the mental illness I have as it exists today. For the record, I have anxiety, depression, PMDD and other issues related to abuse I’ve endured.
I thought it would be too painful to write, and I doubted it was any good, but I did it. I got from the beginning to the end. And when I revisited it a few days later? I edited the whole thing without a second thought or worry.
And when I finally submitted it to the author? They told me they loved it.
That was a huge breaking point for me. I repeated it in my mind multiple times. They loved it…They loved it. A published author loves my work.
It was a thrill I’m still riding to this day, and I can’t wait to see my first work published in a real book. Just like I’ve dreamed it since before I could remember. It’s what I’d always wanted.
That spark was fanned into a flame, and before I knew it? I decided, firmly, that I was going to publish something this year. I didn’t care what the costs would be, what the hoops would be, nothing. I was going to do it. I set up a schedule, pulled a prompt out of my dusted records, and got to work.
Now? I’m on the third draft of a novel I thoroughly enjoy, and I have a cover ready to go.
Sometimes I get afraid of how it will be received. What if no one likes it? What if it doesn’t sell? What if it gets really bad reviews?
But none of those what ifs scared me more than thinking I had lost the only passion I’d had in life, and I don’t think there’s anything scarier than having nothing to live for. Nothing to do in life that you enjoy to the bottom of your heart. If you don’t have that, what do you have?
I’ve found my purpose again, and I know there are so many out there who’ve likely had similar happen to them. So my advice to you?
Go out there and follow your passions. Do the thing, because it is yours.