That time I quit writing…
Have you ever given up on a dream?
I don’t mean you had a bad few days, and decided you couldn’t do it, then when friends rallied around you with nice words of encouragement, and some pics of funny cats, a video of a baby goat, you picked up that pen/ microphone/ paintbrush again. I mean QUIT. Completely talked yourself out of your dreams, your passions – or let someone else talk you out of them?
I quit for over a decade. Oh, I had some help with those cliffs of insanity, where dreams are torn from our hearts and thrown over the edge to be drowned in our tears of defeat. Of resignation.
I remember the moment I gave up. It was the first day of school, I won’t say *which* year in high school so as not to identify the teacher, and I shall refer to this teacher as the gender nonspecific ‘they.’
They’d given us an assignment: Write a page about what you wanted to be when you were older. It was an assignment so the teacher could see how well we wrote, and could get to know us all a little bit.
I wrote that I was going to be a writer.
The teacher had written a little note on everyone’s page, and passed them back the next day.
I read the note on mine, and in that moment I gave up.
The note? ‘I don’t think you have what it takes to achieve big things.’
This wasn’t a bit of a challenge – trying to get me to work harder and make it to spite them. No, this teacher just didn’t like me.
Because of this comment I didn’t write anything, other than a brief angsty poem phase at 18-19, for over ten years. I felt myself switch off. Here was my TEACHER, who told my mum that they were relying on me to bring up the class average, who was actively discouraging me from my dream. What was the point of trying?
The previous year, I’d written a 98% in English. That year with the Discourager, my final mark was in the 60’s.
I don’t know the moment I talked myself back into writing, but sometime in 2007 I began writing my first MS. While it would need a LOT of work before it sees the light of day, it ignited a spark inside me, growing brighter with every word I typed until it was bright enough for me to find myself again.
I recently finished writing my 7th Manuscript. December of 2012, I signed with a fabulous agent from a fabulous agency. My debut novel, The Best Laid Plan was published with Swoon Romance in 2013, and my second comes out this year.
While I wouldn’t call myself a wild literary success, I am actively going for it, putting myself in harm’s way as I go for my dreams, hoping I’m not dashed against the rocks. And things are happening for me!
Years later, when cleaning out an old binder, I came across that high school assignment. I tore that note to pieces, but the words are still seared into my mind. They burn me to this day.
In the small town I’m in, I still SEE this fucking teacher, sometimes weekly. They don’t recognize me. But I sure remember them.
I’d sort of had this plan, to dedicate my first published book to them. A sort of revenge by success. It was going to be as follows:
”This book is dedicated to the high school English teacher who told me I ‘don’t have what it takes to achieve big things.’ HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW?!”
But you know what? That teacher doesn’t deserve even the tiniest place in my book – not even as a ‘fuck you.’ They’re so not worth it. And they didn’t get that dedication. I feel great about my decision.
Don’t let anyone take ten years from your journey. Whether it’s for fun, or for profit, or to show those naysayers, you GO for your dreams. Grab on tight and don’t ever let go.
Stop wasting time trying to talk yourself out of your dreams. Someone encouraged me to quit, and I let them.
I’ll never do that again.
And you shouldn’t either.
But your dreams need more than NOT giving up on them. They need care, and tending, and WORK. Having them isn’t as important as going for them. So here are a few of the things I’ll be doing for mine in 2014.
1. Writing more every day.
I write nearly every day, but quite a few slipped by in 2013 without a word hitting the page. Granted, I had a crazy year with the flash flood, and the shock of all that changed my brain. I just didn’t feel creative while my town was in shambles and I was out of work, not sure when I’d be back working. But guess what? We have to push through those days of waiting for the muse to show up. There is never, and will never be, a perfect day for writing, when no one interrupts you mid thought, where you feel 100% healthy, and stress-free. Just like quitting smoking, there will never be that perfect day where the world stops to let you create. So I am going to strive harder to write harder – especially on those days I just want to zone out.
2. Paying it forward.
My Crit partner, Jessa Russo and I throw a biannual pitch contest called PitchMAS, where writers pitch to Agents and Editors. We’ve done three so far, and from those we’ve had hundreds, maybe thousands of requests. People have found agents and book deals through our contest! On days where I felt crappy, I’d ask Twitter for good news, because other peoples’ good news perks me up. Lately people have been telling me of their successes with our contest, and that makes me feel great. So I am going to try to find other avenues of paying it forward in 2014. It’s selfish, but good things come of it.
3. Appreciating where I’m at.
The publishing process is a sort of purgatory for writers, then things can happen ALL AT ONCE! And when things happen so quickly, it can be easy to get swept up in ‘what’s next?’ My debut was published! AMAZING! The audio rights sold, so that debut will be made into an audio book in February! AHHH! But I’m already working on the next project. As writers, we’re taught to do that. Always work on what’s next. While I’ll keep working on what’s next, I’m going to work harder at appreciating and savoring what’s happening NOW.
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