As with all great and epic tales, my writing journey began in the second grade. I assume all heroes are forged on the playground at 8 years old. Please don’t try to change my mind on this.
I mentioned this in this post about books that made me writer, but Ramona Quimby, Age 8 was a really important book to me as a kid, and one that made me want to tell stories. As a first grader, I wrote books all the time, which is to say that I stapled a piece of construction paper around some copy paper, and filled those pages with stories and illustrations. But by second grade, I was ready to really become a writer.
I’m not entirely sure why the adults in my life let the journey of writing begin, but I do suppose it had something to do with there not being many other affordable activities for kids to do. We didn’t have cable, and my free time was mostly spent throwing a tennis ball against a wall or watching reruns of prime time sit coms on UHF channels. So, I guess writing was an acceptable activity.
Between filling notebooks and going to the library, my literary life was pretty full.
And while I spend a lot of time thinking about writing as a kid, my writing journey has seen some shit, gang. Long gone are the days of filling notebooks with teen angst while I lay huddled in a twin bed while listening to Less Than Jake.
I mean. I still write in bed sometimes. But with a laptop and simply because sometimes I need to be in bed.
To really understand the progression of any writer, you need to know when the professional part of their journey began. Or, if not the professional part, the part where shit got real.
The Start of My Professional Writing Journey
Up until college, I think I was more enabled than anything else. When you’re young, people will let you get away with bullshit writing. They encourage you, and it doesn’t really matter if you’re doing good stuff or not. This isn’t a bad thing per se, and that sort of environment is what you need to find your footing before you wade into the wide world of sharing your writing with people who don’t actually know you.
Entering college was like screaming, “Let the journey of writing begin!” Because that’s where I learned that professors weren’t going to let me get away with the same shit that high school teachers did. It’s where I encountered peer criticism for the first time, and where I learned to have a thick skin.
I took every writing class I could as an undergrad and enrolled in a graduate writing program. Both were really important to me as a writer, but also, made it nearly impossible to write for a really long time.
Every writer has an innate inner critic that’s always whispering in their ear about how shitty they are. I was no exception. But I also had professors telling me all the things that were wrong with my work and people on the outside asking why I didn’t just write a book already, as if that were the easiest thing in the world.
(Side note: If you know someone in a college or higher level writing program, know that they are doing creative writing shit for classes in addition to writing papers every week. The reason they don’t write a book already is because there is literally not time.)
And now, as someone who got a master’s degree in writing twelve years ago, writing a book is a lot easier than it’s ever been. I can knock out a full draft in less than a month. But it took a long time to get here, and at the time I was in school, I had never felt so alone and unsupported. That, mixed with criticism from professors and not having anyone in my immediate inner circle that had experienced the same thing made it impossible to write.
That’s why I basically didn’t for years. Well, that and burn out. Because when you can’t write fiction, you’ll try to prove yourself in other ways by working full-time as a tech writer or ghostwriter and writing like 3-6 freelance articles a week.
Or at least that’s what I did.
It wasn’t sustainable, and I knew something had to change.
Ego Death and Resurrection: All the Cool Writers Do It
On my twenty-ninth birthday, I left a very toxic workplace and started teaching. Teaching was still stressful, but it gave me some space to heal my burnout and focus on the writing I wanted to do. In that time, I dipped my toes further into blogging. I perfected my process and really honed the blog you see here today.
I also started doing YouTube and published my first planner.
But all the while, I kept asking myself if this was the writing I was supposed to be doing. I felt like I was meant to be some grand artist, even though I never got into writing for the art. I was there for the story and human connection. And prior to college, I never really cared much about critical acclaim or literary merit. I liked the stories I liked.
But there was a voice in the back of my head that kept telling me I was supposed to be a big, important writer. And big, important writers don’t blog or self-publish planners.
I have since buried that voice in the backyard. Metaphorically.
And to do that, I had to start really writing a lot of fiction. I started small with short stories. I banged out a few novel drafts. I did some NaNoWriMos. All of it felt so big and daunting, but I pushed through because I had to just write stuff. The inner critic was dead, and it was time for me to do the thing I had wanted to do my whole damn life.
It was messy. I wrote a ton of garbage. I hated a lot of what I created. I felt like a fraud most of the time. But I did it, and found out how I needed to approach the work I do.
I’ve made peace with my fiction writing process and allow myself to write garbage. That means when that inner critic shows up, I don’t listen.
And through doing this, I’ve realized that I get to be the writer I want to be, regardless of how my inner critic feels about it.
Where My Writing Journey is Heading These Days
These days, I’m writing a lot. I blog three days a week here, and I write a weekly newsletter. Oh, and I’m working on a 22 book series based on the major arcana of the tarot.
I feel like I’m slowly becoming the writer I always was, which is much better than trying to find the writer I was meant to be.
There are still days where I freak out because I worry I’m not doing the right thing. And I take some time to remind myself that there is no right thing. I’m still burnt out all the time, and probably will be as long as I have to exist on this earthly plane. But I do like that writing energizes me more than it drains me. This is a happy new development.
Overall, I’d say my writing journey has been all about finding the balance between doing what I want and what I have the capacity for in the season of life I exist in. It’s not easy, and I don’t always feel that balance or alignment.
But I’m in a very good place as a writer, and I’m excited to share what I’ve been working on.