Until college, I had never done much writing. As an avid reader, I had always preferred to be on the other end of the exchange. In the back of my mind throughout my childhood and teenage years, I thought I would write one day, but that day never seemed to come. Then I realized I could take a class in creative writing at the university where I was pursuing (but not too quickly) a degree in psychology.
I signed up for the class and learned that the teacher refused to actually teach us how to write because he “didn’t want to destroy our natural writing voice.” That was the bad part, but the good part was that work would not be graded. It was a pass/fail class and the only requirement needed to pass the course was to write a total of 64,000 words of fiction. Having never written any fiction I thought, I can do that.
I turned in my first story, about a boy delivering cookies in secret at Christmas time. The teacher’s only comment? “This is not a story.” However, he failed to actually explain why it wasn’t a story or what it would take to turn it into one. I floundered around, feeling more and more frustrated. The only feedback I got was negative, with the teacher throwing around derogatory terms like “head-hopping” without bothering to explain what they meant. (It’s when a writer changes point of view in the middle of a scene without a good reason.) The only things I learned in that class were that I wasn’t a writer and it’s really hard to go from 0 words to 64,000 in just a couple of months, especially while working full-time and carrying five other college classes.
Having failed at the class, I decided to take it again with another professor, but, by then, I was too discouraged to even try and I failed again.
I didn’t try to write again for years until I took a class in memoir writing about fifteen years ago. Our class formed a writing group which was helpful because it gave me a reason to write. Then I tried NaNoWriMo and won three times, finishing one novel and part of another. I didn’t stick to it, though, and wandered off to other things, usually involving paper and glue.
Recently I got interested in writing again and, almost by accident, ended up as president of the Annapolis chapter of the Maryland Writers’ Association. It didn’t seem right to be in charge of a group of writers without actually writing, so I started up again. Slowly, I began to grow in confidence and desire and I started to do a lot more writing.
In 2017 I began a daily journal, missing only one day in the last three years. I found out that, if I sat down and wrote as soon as I rolled out of bed in the morning, it wasn’t hard to get my journaling done.
I decided that, if I could write in my journal in the morning every day, why not do my fiction at the same time. I started writing bits and pieces and before I knew it I had finished the novel I started about ten years ago and was churning out short stories, too.
In December, 2019, I joined WattPad and, with the possibility of an audience, I started to get serious about writing. I set a goal of one new short story a week and got to work on it. The audience is still small, but it’s growing. More importantly, my catalog of stories is growing, too. In just a couple of months I have written a dozen stories, finished one novel, and made significant progress on another one. The best part is, I didn’t have to give up anything much to do it. I stopped playing one game on my phone and that gave me just enough time to do the writing I needed and wanted to do.
I don’t know where this is headed. I am letting the finished novel marinate while I work on the next one. When I have enough distance, I’ll go back and start the rewrite. After enough rewriting and some work with beta readers and an editor, it might be ready for publishing. I’ll probably self-publish, but I’m open to other options. In the meantime, all of my stories are going out in the world, looking for readers and making me feel brave.
Am I a writer? I can finally say that I am, and say it with pride. My writing will always need improving, but I’m just happy to be in the game.