I had wanted to become an author since fourth-grade. But wanting and doing are two very different things. I knew I possessed some talent—all my school papers and reports usually came back marked with A’s.
Funny thing was, though, I never really wrote anything unless I absolutely had to. I tried keeping a diary in sixth-grade. A few sentences written down on a few pages and that was it for me. The rest of the diary remained blank. I decided I’d write a mystery novel when I was a teen. Got about two paragraphs in, then nothing. No big deal. I’ll concentrate on writing when I’m grown up, I told myself.
So I went to off to college with high hopes. Maybe taking a fiction writing class will spur me on, I thought. I signed up for one and ended up doing quite well in the class. The instructor even offered to help me get published after the class was over. But I was too “busy” with the rest of my classes to take her up on her offer. When I graduate, I told myself. That’s when it will happen. I’ll become an author then.
I graduated and got a job in a bank adjusting mortgage loan rates. While I calculated new payments, I daydreamed about what it would be like to see a book of mine on bookstore shelves. But I didn’t do anything more than daydream. When I quit my job to stay at home and have kids, that’s when I’ll finally get around to it, I told myself. The bank job was important—it put my husband through optometry school, but man was I happy when he graduated. No more calculators for me anymore! Just kids! And writing! Yay!
Well, the kids came. First my son, Seth. Then a little less than two years later, my son, Spencer. But I was too occupied being their mom to find time to write. When my youngest was starting to toddle around I remember thinking to myself, When they’re in school, that’s when I’ll begin my career as an author. Instead of agreeing with myself, like usual, something strange happened. I became horrified. It dawned on me that “when they’re in school” would turn into “when they graduate”—that I would always and forever find an excuse.
Suddenly I was frightened that one day I wouldn’t be thinking to the future anymore. Instead I would be looking to the past and wondering what if. What if I had actually tried to write? What would have happened? I didn’t want that question to go unanswered. Even if the answer was I had tried and failed. So right then and there I started writing. Soon I was getting a steady stream of rejection letters, but I took satisfaction in the knowledge I was doing something about my dream. And there happened to be encouraging comments from editors along the way, so I persisted.
Fourteen years after putting pen to paper (and eventually fingers to keyboard) I finally received an offer from Greenwillow for my first novel. It was well worth all the hard work and effort it took. I’m glad I tried. I now know the answer to “what if.”
My advice to those who want to write is to buckle down and do it. Read books on the business of publishing. Read books on the craft of writing. Read novels for the age and audience you want to write for. Visit message boards of online writing communities. But most importantly, just get down to business and write. And don’t forget to dream a little along the way….after all, it’s great fun to dream.