We’ll call this a two part series. Part 1: You ARE a writer, and Part 2: Trial by Fire.
I mentioned in a previous post that my mistakes on my first book, Scales on our Eyes, were numerous indeed. Before I delve into that, however, I need to address this:
For a long time, I considered writing a hobby that got out of control after college. I’m not a writer. I didn’t go to school for this. Who am I in the grand scheme of things to give myself such a prestigious title?
Depression wrap its greedy claws around my neck when I researched query letters, especially when I started writing them for contests (I wanted to test the waters before jumping into the scary ocean of querying agents). There’s that little ending paragraph to tout degrees in writing – creative or not – and, often times, published works. In my contest queries, I had one line: I self-published a book of poetry, The Diary of a Broken Heart, when I was seventeen.
Rewind to seventeen (holy cow, that’s almost 10 years ago). A girl in class had a single poem published in some gimmicky poetry.com book, and I was beyond mad. I ate poetry for breakfast, not her. Every time we had to read poetry in class, I memorized the poem and got all slam-poetry dramatic, and I would pick the longest ones to do (To Santa Clause and Little Sisters). If a classmate forgot to do their poetry assignment, they’d pick a poem from me that I wrote. When we had to analyze poetry in class, I took half an hour to tell the class every nuance of Poe’s Lenore, when most kids spent 5-10 minutes on a throwaway Robert Frost we already discussed in class.
I scrounged up my entire binder full of poetry and self-published it. I knew nothing about publishing, I just did it. It’s still sitting on lulu.com somewhere, collecting virtual dust. But I never saw myself as a writer. I just wrote poetry, and my English teachers told me I was good at it.
That was the year I got an 86 on my ELA exam… and it BROKE me. An exam in essay format to discuss books – and I failed it. 86 meant fail to me. Heaven could have struck me dead, and I would have felt deserving of it.
I thought maybe words were not my calling.
That year, we had a multi-genre research project. I chose writers and mental illness, and I developed and designed a full blown newspaper with creative gimmicky articles, comics, and ads that summed up my research on the aforementioned topic. My teacher thought it was a genius piece, A+ all around, and that sparked the world of graphic design for me – the route I took in college.
The point of telling you all of that is to tell you this: I struggled with the question “Am I good enough to call myself a writer?” Even when I started Scales in 2011 and finished in 2013, I never considered myself a writer.
In my senior year of college, I took a mandatory writing 101 class. When my professor handed me back my 26-page final paper, she handed me a Writing Program brochure. She said “your writing is exceptional, and I would urge you to switch majors to the writing program.” But I was too late. I left college thinking I had missed the writing boat. Less than a year later, I started Scales as a project for myself. I saw stories of teenagers and 20-year-olds securing book deals. No way could I play on the same field. These people lived writing their whole life, and I gave it up.
Writing soon took over my life this past year. I finished Scales in February, slammed through edits, beta readers, and more edits. I joined Twitter contests, NaNoWriMo, and started hashing out a second novel. In recent months, my writing has taken a significant lead over my design work. People don’t ask me about my design job anymore. They ask “how’s your book coming?” “Are you writing anything else?” “How did that writing contest go?”
At my first (and last) NaNoWriMo party, I met my chapter leader. She gave me a pin. It simply stated: “I write Books.” Even then, I still struggled with the question: Am I a writer?
No, I don’t have a degree in writing. Yes, everything I learned about writing came from Google, blog posts from fabulous Twitter writers, dropping the proverbial ball in contests, my own ventures in reading, and amazing people who have critiqued my work along the way.
It wasn’t until December that I finalized my answer. Making it into PitchWars and ProjectREUTSway simultaneously validated me to finally say, yes, I am a writer. BUT I WAS WRONG! WRONG I TELL YOU! I’m a writer, and was always a writer, because I write.
I made it into the finals of two twitter contests. I was a writer then.
I cranked out a successful NaNoWriMo this past year while juggling project REUTSway. I was a writer then.
I joined in on Twitter contests last August. I was a writer then.
I started full-on editing Scales a year ago. I was a writer then.
I wrote Scales starting in January 2011. 80% of it in a notebook/ iPad during my lunch breaks at work. I was a writer then.
I wrote kick-ass papers in college. I was a writer then.
I wrote poetry in high school. I was a writer then.
I let myself be intimidated by those with more experience and education. I learned to keep learning and keep teaching myself – to keep putting myself in learning experiences. I forced myself to enter Twitter pitches, to swap 1st pages with other writers, to write short stories for a contest, despite my comfort zone and insecurities. Right now, I don’t feel like less of a writer. I learned that, eventually – with enough drive and an open mind – no one will be able to tell that I didn’t study this in school.