A Spoonful of Confidence…

Welcome back, dear reader!  Just give me a moment while I throw cyber glitter into the air to celebrate that not only have I survived my first blog post, but I’ve written another one.  VICTORY!!!

You should have seen me on Monday; I don’t know how many times I checked my WordPress app, cackling with glee as people viewed the blog.  I almost feel sorry for my family; I kept shouting updates to them, whether they wanted to hear them or not.  SOMEONE ELSE JUST VIEWED IT!  I HAVE ANOTHER FOLLOWER!  THIS IS LIKE HIGH SCHOOL BUT I DON’T CARE!

Thank you for making that Monday extra special for me! 😉

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Okay, onto the next post.  With a show of cyber hands, how many of you are writers?  Poetry, novels, flash fiction, fan fiction, memoir, sci-fi, graphic novels – if you pen it, you’re a writer.  Keep those hands up if you get the inevitable question, “Oh, are you published?”  I don’t know how many times I’d get asked that when I mentioned that I write, and a part of me always squirmed when I had to reply that no, I wasn’t.  I think it’s something that we all face, this expectation that you are only a writer if you’ve been published.  But, as one friend has pointed out to me, writers are those who create to help process – doesn’t matter if others are going to read your work, you just need to express it.  So, whether you’re published or not, or don’t even want to be published, wave that hand proudly in the air.  You ARE a writer.

Of course, I say all this on a blog that essentially is about how my book is getting published, but you know what I mean.  So why exactly did I decide to pursue publication?  Oh I don’t know – some might call it insanity, and there were definitely parts in the process where I thought I was insane.  But hey, what’s a little insanity among artists, right?

I always knew I wanted to write stories, had been doing it since high school…yet threw myself into pre-nursing classes as soon as I graduated.  Never mind that I all but bombed chemistry (believe me, I do not say that phrase lightly, given the subject; it’s a wonder I didn’t burn down the classroom), hate math with every fiber of my substantial being, and at times have the attention span of a gnat – I was bound and determined to save the world…although technically I think the world needed saving from me.  Seriously, you do not want a nurse who hates needles or blood working on you, right?  Right.

It took a year for me to see the light – thanks to a particularly dry lecture on kidney function – and then it hit me.  Maybe I couldn’t actually help in a medical crisis, but I could certainly write about it!  Agatha Christie, Patricia Wentworth, oodles of cozy mysteries – I too could write like that!  After making the announcement to my relieved parents that I was not actually cut out to be a nurse, I immediately switched over to English studies, eventually focusing on Creative Writing at GMU.

I was filled with confidence as i marched to my first writing class…until I realized that people were actually going to read my stories.  Not only that, I had to actually finish one.  And to a perfectionist who could never get beyond the first three chapters of any story (write chapters, stop, obsess over flaws, give up in frustration, wait a few months, start from beginning, repeat), this was quite the daunting task.  Luckily for me, they were short stories, and were overall well-received.  And the more I wrote the more determined I grew to not only become a better writer, but to become published.  I wanted to share my story, whatever it may be, with the world.  Bonus if I actually got paid to do it!

But I just couldn’t get past my perfectionist ways, and for several years worked solely on those first three chapters of one story, getting frustrated with the flaws in my writing, giving up, then returning a few months later to start all over again.  I’d begun to believe that I’d never escape that rut, that I just wasn’t meant to complete anything, when I happened to stumble across a library’s online calendar of events and discovered that two of my favorite authors, Megan Spooner and Amie Kaufmann, would be doing a free event at the library to connect with their readers and sign their latest book, which of course I’d pre-ordered months ago and was just itching to have signed.  So I convinced my sister to come with me to keep me company, bundled us into the car, and drove almost an hour to get those coveted signatures.  I would have been completely happy with just that alone, but while I was at the event I heard the single most important writing advice that has probably ever been uttered.

Let me set up the scene for you: the library’s small community room was filled to the brim with YA readers, all of us perched on our hard plastic chairs as we geeked out over being near Amie and Megan, who are absolutely hilarious together.  They talked about their writing schedule and the adventures of being a writing team while living literally across the world from each other- Amie lives in Australia, Megan in the U.S. – dropped hints of the book, talked about upcoming projects…and then the inevitable question of what advice they had to young writers came up.

I nearly fell on my face as I leaned forward to hear some complex suggestion that only an experienced writer could come up with.  Truly, this was a moment of great importance.

Amie opened her mouth to speak first, and I held my breath, pen poised over my notebook to scribble down her words, ready for the writer’s cramp that I’d be sure to get jotting down the no doubt complicated writing procedure they swore by.

Ready for it?  Brace yourself, because this will blow your mind:

Just write.

….

Two words.  That’s it.  Just.  Write.  Yes, they sounded extra impressive thank to Amie’s accent, but still.  Just write.

The tension in me deflated, leaving me wilted in that cold plastic chair, my mouth agape as I struggled to take it all in.  Of course, she had more to say, something along the lines of writing the first draft is the most difficult part, because it’s easier to edit something that’s already there than to start from scratch.  And then Megan joined in by adding that one technique that works really well for her is to set up a daily word count goal.  The words she writes may be crap, but by golly she’s going to meet that goal.

Now, of course I’d been told this in college; all my writing professors had emphasized time and again the importance of practicing and sticking to a writing schedule.  But for whatever reason (I blame puberty), those two words had more impact on me than two years of writing workshops.  And as that realization sank in, a small bubble of hope took residence in me, a little germ of confidence that maybe, just maybe, I might finally be able to start that one story I’d been working on and *gasp* actually finish it.

Spoiler alert, it worked.

Setting up a daily word count goal did wonders; I lowballed it by deciding on 500 words a day, and more often than not would triple that.  So not only was I writing, but I gained more confidence as I exceeded my goals, which is how I finished the first draft in a month.  Now, that first draft was complete and absolute crap, but it was something.  And just as Amie had said, it was easier to edit something already written.

Second spoiler alert: that crappy first draft was of Hart & Seoul…which was 110% not the story I had promised myself I would finish.  If you had told me that I was going to write a contemporary YA novel featuring a K-pop star, I would have very nicely offered to buy you ice cream to soften the blow of informing you that you are insane.

But when an idea hits, it cannot be ignored, and I learned a valuable lesson: be open to change!  You never know where it might take you.

And no matter what kind of writer you are, whether you are pursuing publishing or just love to quell all those voices in your head (can I get an AMEN to that one?!), I echo the best advice a writer can get:

Just write.

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P.S.  I can sum up the topic of my next post in two words: BTS Concert.  This is going to be epic…

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