I can tell you two sure things about my life. The first one: ever since I was eight, I wanted to be a writer. The rest of the story of how I became one is, well, a little less sure. My commitment to my writing career reads more like a Britney Spears marriage vow than a literary masterpiece. But that’s why I am here, writing this article. It’s because the second sure thing I’m going to tell you about my life is this: if I can be a successfully published writer, so can you.
I have written throughout most of my life. Journals, poetry, letters, the occasional short story–all personal literary accomplishments. However, as is normal for every aspiring wordsmith, I yearned to be a ‘real’ writer, a publicly acknowledged author. So, I talked about it with my family and friends. I bought the writing books and read the writing magazines and chatted with the online writing groups. I sent out polished queries with marketable, timely ideas and unique slants. In due time, I got assignments from editors. I was thrilled. I was becoming an honest-to-goodness writer!
But every time I sat down at the keyboard to craft an article, a stupendous, paralyzing flood of self-doubt overcame me. What is this poopy stuff that I am typing? This is not the way I saw the article in my head! Where was that golden prose I was going to weave? And who am I to be doing all this, anyway?
Soon, my self-critic became so strong that it began to manifest itself as a deadly form of procrastination. Whenever I received an assignment, I would do anything but write it. Surf the web (translation: “doing research for the article”), run a few loads of laundry, clean the house, you name it.
Writing the article itself was an exercise in torture. I couldn’t keep my interest going long enough to finish it and I feared what I wrote wasn’t good enough. As a result, I started missing deadlines and making excuses. The editors were kind, but they didn’t ask me to write for them again. It was crushing not only to my self-esteem but to my fledgling career as well. I began to question this persistent inner urging of mine. If I wanted to write so badly, why was I doing this to myself? Why don’t I just sit down and get it done? ‘Real’ writers don’t do this sort of thing, do they? Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be a writer after all. Hmmm. Maybe that was it.
So I dropped it. I stopped querying and stopped talking about it. I unsubscribed from my writing magazines and Internet groups and put the writing books in the basement. I even stopped journaling. I was done. I was also incredibly sad. I had always identified myself as a writer and yet had failed miserably at it. I didn’t know what else in the world I was going to do.
Fortunately, the little voice inside my head had other ideas. Like a fly that wouldn’t go away, writing thoughts kept buzzing around, saying, “Just once more. Just one itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny time more…” Irritated and frustrated, I made a deal with myself: I was going to write an article that really, truly piqued my interest, not just something for the sake of making a sale. I would still market it, and if it sold, it would be the sure sign for me to start writing seriously again. And if it didn’t sell, then it meant I wasn’t destined to be a writer. I’d go back to my private journals and poems. The consolation prize would be one whole day of eating nothing but chocolate and sell all my writing books to the local discount book store.
Certain that I was going to fail, I picked a topic that I felt almost impossible to achieve: land an interview with a television personality interested in wildlife conservation. My life-long interest in nature had led me to a wildlife television series called Zoboomafoo. Although geared for kids, I enjoyed watching it as much as my children did. I also liked the way the hosts of the show, Chris Kratt and Martin Kratt, gave kids the opportunity to be directly involved in wildlife conservation. So, I did some searching on the web, found a phone number, and made a phone call. And there I was, a part-time, small-town freelance writer, asking the public relations person for the Kratt Brothers if I could interview them for a story. She said yes. And the rest is history.
I did the interview and approached the computer to write the article. Guess what? The writing flowed–sometimes fast, sometimes slow–from my fingertips. The inner editor still spoke, but in a more constructive manner and not so harshly. Did the article sell? You bet! That article helped me break through to the national level and since then, I have been busier and more productive than at any other time in my life. Deadlines are not nearly as painful. Writer’s block is almost nonexistent.
The difference? I don’t write for money’s sake alone. I take care to pick a subject matter I am truly interested in or write for an organization I truly care about. I still experience a twinge of fear when I sit down in front of the computer and see that blinking cursor on the blank screen, but it’s more of a small nudge to remind me to do the best I can, rather than an indicator of an oncoming case of writer’s block.
Procrastination. Self doubt. Writer’s block. Missed deadlines. Miffed editors. I’ve been through it all. And I’ve hung in there long enough to know that in the end, this race is run—and won–by you and you alone. Listen to your inner voice and get comfortable with what you are hearing. Then write. I did it and got published. So can you.
Alicia Adams attended the School For Those Who Insist On Learning The Hard Way to apprentice freelance writing. Since graduation, she has been published in numerous places such as Guideposts for Kids Online, Wee Ones Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and PBS West Virginia. She has also written material for her local school system and two political campaigns. She is currently at work on her first mid-grade novel, a book of quotes for chocolate lovers and a picture book about Annie Bronn, also known as Wild Horse Annie. A confirmed chocoholic, she lives with her husband, two kids, a dog, a bird, and a rabbit in the suburbs of Marysville, Ohio, not too far from the local candy store.