Full disclosure. I’m thirty fucking one years old. I’ve been writing since I before I can even remember; there are legitimately construction paper books that I wrote in crayon from my late toddler years. So let’s say I’ve been writing for over twenty five years. When I look at it like that, I get depressed over how this has been my ‘dream’ for so long and I still haven’t accomplished it.
BUT. I am in general, a positive person that likes to blow sunshine up people’s asses, as my dad likes to say. Sometimes I tend to forget to blow sunshine up my own ass, so this is me getting out the hose.
I wrote my first novella at thirteen. It was absolutely terrible, but at the time it was the most epic thing that I’d ever done. It was called Last Dance, and it was about every kid in my class getting killed at a dance at school. It was a B-movie whodunit and it’s honestly a joy for me to go back and read, laughing to tears the entire time. Honestly guys it’s so bad. I remember printing it out with a cover and everything (I may or may not still have that copy in my filing cabinet), and passing it around for my friends to read. Though cringeworthy (ugh, tweenhood, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to that), I’m kind of proud of the balls that my thirteen year old self had to be able to share something like that. If I recall, it got mostly good reviews.
Riding out the high of finishing a long work opened up a world of possibilities for me. I’d dabbled in short stories, original and fanfic, but nothing so long before. It started an addiction that carried well into my teens. In grade 9 geography class, while we were supposed to be colouring a map of Canada (literally, that was most of the class, it was bullshit), I was furiously writing a novella that I later submitted to my grade 12 Writer’s Craft class and got a pretty fantastic mark on. A friend and I spend our hour long bus rides to and from school in grade 10 comparing chapters in stories we were writing concerning us with celebrity boyfriends avoiding serial killers and kidnappings and the like. You know, all that dramatic stuff of fantasy for teenage girls.
I wrote a lot of fanfic back then, mostly JRPG’s, fantastical worlds with badass teenaged characters tasked with saving the world. It was a great way to flex my writing muscles and interact with people out there on the big wide internet that were into the same stuff as me. I go back and read them sometimes to remember how far I’ve come, and I just don’t have the heart to take them down.
Early to mid high school I was a part of a few roleplay forums, mostly Legend of Dragoon based, but a few original ones as well. This is essentially novel writing with a bunch of other people, and it was yet another way to explore writing. Throwing my carefully crafted character into a chosen world and seeing what happened was so much fun, and the rp rules kept a lot of tropes in line. Things like no godmoding taught us all how to avoid Mary Sue type characters that are perfect and can never do any wrong. It was great practice.
Grade 12 Writer’s Craft was a dream come true. My teacher was an eccentric lady with loud suit jackets and frizzy hair (no offense meant, my nickname was literally Miss Frizzle for a time as a teen), and she was morbid as all hell. I submitted a lot of weird ass stories to her and she always had positive feedback, the weirder the better. One of my good friends submitted a crazily morose story about a character creatively murdering all of her friends at a party, and this teacher graded it really well but added that she would have liked more description. There was literally description of the squelching of intestines being drawn out of a human body. Ah, that class was divine.
Post high school, I didn’t do much writing. I got up to some things, moved around, didn’t have a computer or internet for a time, and years went by in a blur before I really thought about writing again. I worked random factory jobs, and then thought seriously about getting into photography as a career. I had tried taking a course on ‘Creative’ Photography, but it wasn’t creative at all, and just caused me to hemorrhage money, so I dropped it. Problem was, I wanted to do art. It was discouraging to try to break into any kind of market because it was way easier to market wedding photography or kids or whatever. Essentially, becoming an ‘artist’ means becoming really good at marketing and business. Because that’s what you need to do to get your stuff out there, and seen.
This long road of realization brought me back around to writing when I started considering journalism. I quickly figured out that this wasn’t the answer for me, for the same reason that the photography didn’t work out. I wanted to write fiction. I wanted to create art, not write news articles. So I was back to square one.
Except enter the wide world of the internet again, in my early twenties, when self publishing started to become a thing. Or maybe already had been a thing, but I found out about it. Silent Pictures had been born in it’s original form, written entirely in the five weeks that I stayed in Vegas working for my Uncle that year. I did real estate stuff by day, took care of my little cousin before and after school and into the evening, and then after she went to bed I stayed up most of the night writing. It felt so good to get that original 62,000 words out, and it poured out of me like Niagara Falls. It was not very good, I’m not going to lie to you, and took a lot of heavy heavy editing to make the self-pub draft even remotely decent, but I was damn proud of it.
So I submitted to a self-publishing company (which at the time was paperback, and cost $15 per book for me to buy for myself, plus an additional $150 base price for formatting and just accepting my stuff), and got back a shiny novella, my very first published thing. It felt so real, holding that paperback in my hand, but alas, I was young, and had no idea what to do with it. In hindsight, it’s good that I didn’t, because in that form it absolutely shouldn’t have been a final draft. My dad bought one off of me for $20, and that was my very first book sale ever.
I kept writing things, started a bit of Celestial Starshower, but got distracted by other ideas. My best friend and my cousin are both into writing as well, and over the years we poked each other to try to keep the others on track with creative pursuits. But life gets in the way sometimes.
Fast forward to my mid twenties, and I got my hands on On Writing my Stephen King. This book floored me, his method and tips for the craft were life changing for me, and I charged full boar back into fiction writing. I finished a first draft of Celestial Starshower and let it sit (marinate, as King likes to say) while I took a red pen and knife to Silent Pictures. I got into KDP and did the whole rigamarole of getting a US TIN and listing an eBook of Silent Pictures that I was actually proud of. It wasn’t as intense as holding a paper copy of it, but I still like to go hold that original version in my hand for effect.
It was around this time that I discovered Jenny Trout’s blog during her recaps of 50 Shades of Grey and why it’s absolute shit. As she did these, and then started writing my favourite erotica series of all time, The Boss, and sharing her tips on self publishing and the like, I realized that being a writer in this day and age is a lot more than just listing a book. You need a platform and marketing skills if you don’t have an agent or publisher to back you. At the time, I remember feeling extremely self conscious, the fear of failing keeping me from really trying to put myself out there. So I pulled Silent Pictures, and wrote a bit here and there, but not as much as I should have. Though I did start blogging that year, so that’s fun.
I kept getting bursts of inspiration and writing a whole bunch, but then losing it again. It came in waves, but I always had excuses. I mean good ones, like the fact that I had to focus on working and sleeping because I had to pay my bills and shit, but still excuses. Writing Silent Pictures the first time, I think I slept 3-4 hours a night for five weeks straight, and not only survived, but I thrived. I was younger then, but still. When you’re passionate about something, you make it work. But it was definitely the passion that I’d lost.
Then I met my husband. I was twenty seven years old, had resigned myself to living the rest of my life with just my little dog. I’m going to get really lame here for a second, but when he walked into my life it was like a universal shift. He challenged me, brought new perspectives to everything I thought I knew about life, and inspired me to do all of the things I was afraid of doing. Our relationship progressed quickly, leading to moving in within months and then marrying just under a year after that. I was still blogging, kind of writing, but had started crocheting as a side job to my barista job and was more focused on crafting and healthy living than writing.
After our daughter was born, my universe shifted again, and my life was really for reals reals forever changed. I turned thirty, and had a little human clone to raise, and I took a step back to look at what I wanted for my own life. I knew what I wanted for her, confidence, happiness, security, the ability to follow her dreams. And I realized that to be able to show her that those things are attainable, I needed to have those things for myself.
Becoming a mother was something I’d never thought I’d ever do (nor had ever wanted to do before I met my husband), and it has turned out to be the most fulfilling and wonderful thing I’ve ever done. I’ve worked a lot of jobs in my life and the novelty always wore off quickly, once my brain wasn’t stimulated enough, or I didn’t feel like the job itself was a particularly useful one, I’d move on to something new and exciting. I always thought that it was because my favourite things (writing, photography, crafting) you can’t just go and get a job doing them. That my favourite things would always be a hobby while I worked a ‘real job’ to pay the bills. But when my full time job became mom, I realized that that was my dream job all along. It’s a 24-7 job with a shitty wage, but I’ve been doing it for over two years and I still love it just as much as the first day, if not more every day that passes.
Anyway. Upon deciding as a family that my job was full time mom, I still needed to address what I wanted to do for me. It’s always been writing. Always has, and always will be. But it was always a time crunch, right? Between toddler and part time job and family and sleep (haha jk what is sleep) when the hell was I supposed to write? I started writing on my phone, in google docs, so that no matter where I went I could access my stuff. I started critiquing on Critique Circle and learning and flexing those writing muscles again. I started writing random drabbles that will never see the light of day, just to get some shit out. And I started bouncing ideas of my husband, who not only is like 500% supportive of all of my creative endeavors, but is also a fountain of amazing book ideas. Seriously. I have pages and pages of notes of amazing ideas that have come out of his head. All of these things gave me inspiration, and soon forcing myself to write every day became needing to write every day.
In October of 2017 I started to track my daily word counts, with the goal of staying over 500 words per day on average. I knew that some days (like my working days) I wouldn’t be able to get much down, but other days if my daughter went to bed okay and I had an hour or two I could bang out much more. So I created a spreadsheet that I could plug in my counts (also tracking blogging words and critique words), to see how I did.
At the end of the year, my average from October 9th until the last day of December was 679 words per day, with my high day being 2925 words, and my total being 57,021 words. That’s almost 60,000 fucking words! In less than three months! Had I actually worked on a single work of fiction that would have been a submittable short novel right there. Alas, I didn’t, but it was an eye opener for me for sure. Hard numbers telling me that I can, in fact, do this. And that I do, in fact, have words to write. And that knowledge drives me.
And so, with a burst of self confidence and a determination to follow my dreams, I am cracking the fuck down and forging ahead to make it happen. Even if I don’t sell a single thing, I will still write, write, write. I will enter contests, apply to groups, if I ever finish a novel I’m happy with (which I will, dammit!), I will submit it, and not let myself get beat down by rejections. I will continue to interact with other writers, honing our craft together, and supporting each other.
My husband started a new job (yay!) and he’s on a batshit continental shift that is really hard to keep track of, but it gives him a lot more home time with the family, which is nice. And we decided that that also gives me one or two days a week that can be my ‘work days’, where I prance off to the library and sit in a quiet corner and write for a few hours. Treating it like an actual job, and not just something that I get to do when I have a few minutes. And that’s where I am right now. Well not right now for you, because this post is scheduled to post Friday morning, but right now for me. And it feels good.
No more excuses. I have the time now that I never had, I have the confidence that I never had, and am blessed to be surrounded by supportive friends and family who are also creative and excited and will also blow sunshine up my ass when I need it.
So. Cracking the fuck down. In the library with my headphones in, surrounded by literature, able to just write words. I’m going to go write some productive fictional ones now.