I wanted to be a writer ever since I could hold a pencil. My first book “My Future Car” I wrote at a young age (I’m thinking 7 or so). I wrote all the time growing up. I loved to write short stories, books, poems, and even songs. And it wasn’t something I ever grew out of. It carried on into high school. I took Creative Writing classes and got better. When people would ask me what I was doing with my life, I said “I’m going to be a writer.” I even looked for colleges that specifically had Creative Writing programs.
I was so committed that I had a solid response to everyone’s standard joke, “Are you ready to be a starving artist?”
So, I got to college and I got into English classes, and they were very, very hard. It probably didn’t help that for my very first semester of college, I took a 300-level English class! It was a reality check. Then when I got into my 1st creative writing class, it was another type of reality. A humiliating reality. The teacher, wanting us to be prepared for the “real world,” would set us up into a big circle and criticize each other’s work. Note that I use the word criticize and not critique. I don’t recall saying nice stuff. I think we were conditioned to only notice bad things. And, taking his example, we were brutal with each other. He was the worst. He told some kid to burn his story, he threw one kid’s story in the trash saying it was garbage, and he once told me “there’s not one beautiful line on that whole page.”
Sticks and stones, my ass. That stuff hurts.
Well, suffice it to say, those classes effectively killed my joy of writing. It was junior year and I decided I was just going to do what I needed to do and then find some other job once I got out. My one roommate (also a Creative Writing major) was appalled that I was so unhappy and giving up. This made me step back and take a hard look at things. The next moment was a defining moment in my life.
I remember it as if it were yesterday. I came back to the dorm, I went into the bathroom (there’s not much privacy in college), and I talked to God. “God, if you don’t want me to be a writer, let me know.” My heart broke as I felt his answer. No.
What was I to do with my life? Being a writer was the only thing I ever wanted to do. Without the identity of being a writer, I didn’t know who I was. I was nothing. Completely bewildered, my roommates sat down with me and helped me look at some of my other interests: teaching, psychology, Spanish, music. So, that’s when I switched my major over to Psychology. I jokingly say “To heal my soul.” (Side note: now that I am a counselor, I realize that my college professor had issues…just felt I needed to add that).
I gave up on my dream to be a writer and didn’t touch any writing (besides term papers) for a good two years. When I got into grad school, I wrote a bit of music and I wrote a short story for a dream class, but I still set my dream of writing to the side. I thought that God’s plan was me to be a counselor and to leave the writing forever.
But, I was wrong.
Somewhere around four or so years ago (after giving up on my writing dream for a good 7 years), I had an idea for a book. Normally I would squash them, but for some reason, I felt I really needed to write. So, I did. I wrote and wrote and then decided that I needed to try to get my book published. Through this process I found the American Christian Fiction Writers group. I signed up and for the first year, I didn’t do anything. But, then an odd, God-inspired event occurred…
I looked up some Christian book publishers on the back of books that appeared similar quality/genre to mine in a book store and found Thomas Nelson Publishers. From there, I found Michael Hyatt’s blog, which I read and thought, this guy is awesome. Then by some random turn of events, I remembered that ACFW held an annual conference, and I thought, maybe I should look it up and think about going. So, I did. And guess who the keynote speaker was…
It was a sign that I had to go to this conference. I got onto an editing and critiquing loop through ACFW and asked lots of advice about what you need to do for your first conference. I made new writing friends, whom I got to meet up with in Dallas, Texas for my very first conference, and I met tons of new people, writing for God. It was an amazing experience. And they were nice! (good change from the college days).
After the conference, someone told me about a local ACFW group that met once a quarter, and I met up with them and they were also awesome (you know who you are!), and they told me about NaNoWriMo (i.e. National Novel Writing Month). Write a book in a month, that’s crazy. And when does it start? The day after tomorrow? Why not? So, I ended up doing NaNoWriMo and in the process joined some online events and went to a couple in-person events and met amazing people! Not only was I writing again, but I didn’t have to do it alone. I had so many people inspiring me and encouraging me! It was a side of writing I don’t think I ever would have experienced if I had continued my degree.
So, from there some especially awesome people from the NaNoWriMo group formed Shenandoah Valley Writers (SVW), which is an awesome community of writers that I hang out with nearly every morning, if not multiple times per day. One of my friends, Rebekah, has a flash fiction site, Flash! Friday, which I put my stories in every Friday and occasionally win! I’ve started holding online writing events on SVW and on the NaNoWriMo page this year. I’ve made lots of writing friends, and I made more when I went to the ACFW conference this year.
I’ve learned a lot from the my writing friends and from the conferences, and it’s making me a better writer. I got a short story accepted into From the Depths, the Winter issue. I also got contracted to do a comic for GrayHaven Comics Women’s Anthology, coming out this year.
In two years, I have done more with my writing than I have in my entire life, and it feels great because it was God’s plan all along. He had me take that break, because He could see this ahead for me and knew how much it would touch my heart.
One of my heart dreams of being a writer is happening, and, God willing, I will one day have a book published. But, right now, things feel pretty darn amazing.
I’d like to share some pics of my writing friends and things that have been making me happy with my writing! I would also love to hear your stories about dreams that you have thought were lost that you are getting back to or when you have realized a dream.
At my first ACFW conference with my critiquing buddies!
Me doing research for my first book after my return to writing. I lived without electricity for a week. Laundry was the worst part!
When I finished NaNoWriMo in 2012!
A pic from an online event that I regularly hosted!
A pic for an in-person event!
I won “Best Story!”
Excited about something on my blog.
I did something great with writing for NaNoWriMo and won this badge.
My new writing friends from the 2013 ACFW conference!
With one of my best writing buds, Rebekah, at an in-person meeting! 😀