I remember the exact moment when I decided: I’m going to be an author. It was an easy decision. I loved books. They’d been my constant companion since I was old enough to read. I would come home from the library with a stack so big I couldn’t see over the top. I’d stretch out on my bed and dive inside their pages, disappearing inside make-believe worlds for hours at a time. I loved to write, too: poetry, short stories, or scripts for my favorite TV shows. It didn’t matter what I was writing as long as I had plots to twist and characters to explore. Once I‘d made the decision, the idea of holding my creation in my hand took on a life of its own and at sixteen I sat down to make my dream come true.
After two and a half years of pouring my soul out onto notebook pages and over typewriter keys, I had my first, full-length novel. It was a post-apocalyptic behemoth entitled A Twist of Fate. The story followed a small group of people searching for a rumored sanctuary in a ravaged world. I hired a free-lance editor out of a writer’s magazine. She said my writing was superb and I should have no trouble getting published.
It didn’t quite work out that way.
The abbreviated version of the story is: I was a young Kansas girl in a New York world. Reality was a cold bucket of water and self-doubt kept filling it to the top. It was a paralyzing combination. It didn’t stop me from writing, though. I had the itch. The stories were in me and had to come out. Instead, it turned me into what I call a ‘closet writer’. No, I didn’t actually sit in the closet and write, but I might as well have. I hid inside my very secure comfort zone, writing away in private because it was safer that way. If I didn’t tell anyone I was writing, no one would ask to read it. If they didn’t read it, they wouldn’t laugh.
From time to time, friends would see me scribbling in my notebook and ask what I was doing. I didn’t lie, but I was reluctant to come clean. I didn’t know anyone who wrote. Fantasy wasn’t in the mainstream like it is today. Isolating that part of myself, sequestering my writing half, was easier than standing out. I convinced myself I didn’t mind. Writing in itself was enough. I didn’t need to hold my book in my hand. Except, deep down I knew otherwise. It was an internal conflict that became most obvious when I realized I’d developed an unhealthy, love-hate relationship with the bookstore. Since I was young, the bookstore had been one of my favorite places to be. Now, suddenly, it was depressing. Standing amid all those shelves, perusing all the beautiful covers, glaringly brought to light how unlikely it was that I would ever see my own book among them.
I spent many years hiding in my writing closet; writing in private, not letting anyone in, letting my dream drift further and further away. There are days when I wish I could go back and reclaim that time. Break my younger self out of her comfort zone. Tell her to snap the hell out of it—don’t let fear keep you in the closet. There are many tales that need telling and only so many years to tell them in. Quit wasting time. Get out there. Be persistent. Don’t give up. It’s exactly what I would tell any young writer who’s afraid to take a chance on themselves.
Yet, if life hadn’t unfolded the way it did…if certain dominos hadn’t fallen to help me gain the confidence I needed to open the door… if I hadn’t taken a chance and stepped out on my own, things might never have happened for me. I might not be right here, right now, staring at my dream sitting on the shelf.