When I was a little girl, I always dreamed of being a writer. I loved the idea of quiet, solitude, and spending my time in the imaginary worlds I would create. I dreamed of the characters, the scenery, painting pictures with my words, and best of all, hours spent in the peacefulness of my own space.
Well, you know what they say? Be careful what you wish for! You see, I grew up and I got exactly what I’d hoped for. I became an author, but I quickly realized that I hadn’t really understood what that meant. My idea of being a writer turned out to be vastly different than the reality. Not better, and not worse- just different.
The truth of the matter is that for an author, there is so much more than just writing. There is the part where you become a public figure; the part where you have to promote yourself and your work; the very part that has led to me standing in front of a group of people talking about myself more times than I can even count. There is the part that often leads me so far out of my comfort zone that I wonder if I’ll survive.
The real story began a long time ago. As a little girl, I loved to read. I would devour anything and everything I could get my hands on, and when I’d read it all, I would start over again. My mom used to actually ground me from reading, telling me that it was the only thing she could take away that I would care about. She was right.
Once I entered middle school, my love of reading blossomed into a love of writing. I discovered that I was good at expressing myself through the written word, much better than I was verbally. All through middle school and high school, I wrote. I wrote poems, song lyrics, short stories, and essays. (Yes, I was the kid who loved essay tests!)
After high school, I applied for a job with a small newspaper. I knew it was a long shot. After all, who was going to hire a teenager, fresh out of high school, with no experience whatsoever? But I applied anyway. In the interview, I was asked to write something, and so I did. I was hired on the spot. Working for the newspaper was my first taste of seeing my words in print, and I knew I wanted more.
I worked for that newspaper for a couple of years, right up until I had my first daughter. Then I had a second daughter, and eventually a third. My writing took a back seat to motherhood, and I never regretted it for a second. For many years, I never wrote anything. Most days, as those of you who stay at home with small children know, I couldn’t even form a coherent thought, let alone write something.
My children got older, as children do, and in 2015, completely out of the blue, I told my husband I was going to write a book. Of course, he probably thought I was crazy, and looking back I think I must have been! But I felt something tugging at me. It was the part of me that remembered the dream I’d always had.
In February of 2015, I began work on what would become my first novel. I had something to prove to myself- that I had what it took to create and complete an entire book. I had no idea whether or not I could, but I was going to try.
By June of 2015, just four months later, I had finished it. I had no idea what I was doing, but I did know that I wanted to find a publisher. I began to research (having absolutely no knowledge of how to do so), and I soon discovered that what I’d set out to do was a nearly impossible thing. Not willing to be deterred, I submitted my manuscript to several publishers, fully expecting to be rejected by all of them. To my utter shock, instead of rejection, I received a contract. I’ll never forget that moment. It was similar to the way I imagine an out-of-body experience.
Although the contract wasn’t the starting point, that’s when the journey really began. I quickly found out that being a published author was nothing at all as I imagined it would be. Rather than spending all of my time at home with my imaginary friends, I was told that I needed to go to book events and attend signings. I had become a public figure, with absolutely no idea of how to be one. As an anxiety-prone introvert, being in the public eye was quite literally my worst nightmare. Little by little, I’ve learned to navigate the tricky waters, and although the public side never gets any easier for me I know it’s necessary.
When I’d envisioned my quiet, private life as a writer, I hadn’t factored in one thing- no one could buy my books if they weren’t aware that they existed. No one would know they existed if I didn’t tell them, so I had to promote myself and my books. Being at home in my happy comfort zone wasn’t really an option for me if I truly wanted to give my dreams a chance.
Since 2015, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve had three full-length novels, two short stories, and a small poetry collection published. I have another book coming out in July, and one more that will be released by the end of this year. I’ve done more signings, book events, and author talks than I can even count. I’ve learned through trial and error that it is entirely possible for me to do all of the things that scared me the most.
Most days I still have no idea what I’m doing, but I’ve learned that no one really does. More importantly, I’ve learned that it’s entirely possible to live each and every day outside of my comfort zone. These days I spend so much time there that I’ve decided to just pitch a tent and call it home.
So if you have a dream, I urge you to follow it. Dream big, but be ready and willing to follow wherever that dream leads you when it comes true.