Yesterday an exciting thing happened. In my mail was a shiny silver book that contained my short story–making me officially a published author.
The moment I held my first publication in my hands, I stood alone in a dark kitchen. Though I thought about running in to my husband and daughter and waking them up to celebrate, it seemed fitting that I was alone. I’d started this journey with no one but God on my side, and it was He alone that shared the moment when I stared at my words in print for the first time.
This is the beginning.
To make the timing even sweeter, the publication of 10: Carlow University’s MFA Anthology containing my short story, “10 Items or Less,” came just days before my tenth wedding anniversary. I feel both far too young to have been married this long, but also like I’ve been married for all of my life. I think we’ve finally figured out how to be husband and wife, how to run a household and care for a child without wanting to kill each other in the process.
I do have the tendency at times to lament the missing perfection in my marriage. It’s easy to look at other people and think they have it all together. This is true in all walks of life, and that tendency applies to writers as well. We have no idea what someone might have gone through to get where they are. Whether it’s a wonderful marriage or a stack of best-selling novels credited with their name, the part that remains unseen is the time, stress, joy, and aggravation that went into building something great. Because most things don’t come on their own. The passions we pursue require the best years of our lives. And these things are worth the heartache it takes to get there.
To celebrate my 2 tens and what I consider to be the first step in my writing career, I give you 10 things I have overcome. I celebrate these 10 difficulties because I have moved beyond them and refused to them stop me.
- Fear of Sucking: I don’t believe in writer’s block. I can always write something. It’s just putting words on the page. The thing that trips me up is not wanting those words to be an arrangement of awful belched onto the page. It’s okay to suck. Fix it later. But I can’t fix what I don’t write.
- Actually Sucking: When you do anything for the first time, you’re not as good as you will be after the hundredth time you do it. It takes practice and correction to improve, and in the meantime, you suck. I suck less than I did a year ago and more than I will a year from now.
- Self-doubt: There is always in the back of my mind the nagging thought that I don’t have what it takes. I squash this thought daily. I don’t let it stop me.
- Opposition: My own husband does not fully understand why I am pursuing an MFA, why I care so badly about books and writing. He was not in favor of this costly endeavor and in some ways I feel the need to prove myself. I’ve had to push past discouragement in my own home.
- Financial Worries: An MFA is expensive. Writing is not lucrative. What other reasons do you need to say it’s not worth the cost? How about this. Some things are more valuable than money, and some things cost more to abandon than to pursue.
- Time: I work 40 hours and drive 5 in a week. I have a husband and a child and a house and 2 cats. I do freelance work. I am a full-time graduate student. I read a lot and I write a lot. My house is not as clean as I want it to be. I don’t spend as much time with my husband or child as I want. I don’t have enough hours to read or write. But. I make time to do what’s important to me. I don’t spend hours in front of the TV. I limit Facebook as much as I can. I get to bed on time so that I don’t ruin my precious evening hours with fatigue. And I rarely have an idle moment. If I’m not physically doing something, I’m mentally doing something–planning plots, exploring characters, testing dialogue. I use every second to its fullest.
- Fatigue: With so little time and so much to do, it’s inevitable that I get worn out sometimes. When I get to the point where my mind fogs up, there is no creativity happening. There is no objective editing. There is not much except me trying to stay awake. Fruitlessly. It’s much better to take a nap or go to bed and do it fresh another time than to try to push through my tiredness.
- The Odds: Not everyone gets published. I submitted a short story and it got selected. Some didn’t. Whatever the odds were, I beat them. I will do it again.
- The Market: If you listen to it, you will fill your ears with the difficulty of publishing–the lack of books being put out, the money being lost, the crumbling market. Don’t listen. Authors have more options now than they ever have. Sure, things are changing. That’s just the way of the world. Nothing stays the same long. But different does not equal worse. We just have to adapt. Don’t let what “they” say keep you from putting yourself out there.
- Criticism: This is the thing that is maybe the biggest difficulty for a writer to overcome because it’s constant, can feel very personal, and only increases with greater success and exposure. But it’s the thing we must learn to deal with it. It is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to shut you down. Learn from it if you can and move on.
And so, today, I celebrate that these things have not barred me from my deepest passion. They have not held me back or turned me away. I celebrate that I have overcome.
This is only the beginning.