The truly great stuff comes to life in those agonizing yet exhilarating moments when the artist is acutely aware of the limitations of his skills. For it is then that he strains the hardest to make the most he can from the imperfect materials and tools with which he must work…
About ten years ago, just after having my fifth baby, I decided it was time to start taking this urge to write seriously. Years before that, I realized my dream to become a young author while mothering my then two little girls was unrealistic. Instead, I dove into the responsibilities of motherhood and supporting my husbands efforts to provide for our growing family. Over the years, I had seen these ads in the parenting magazines stating “children’s authors needed”.
After baby number five, knowing holding down a day job would be years away, I decided to send away for more information. Thus, I eventually enrolled in my first publishing course, thinking my natural writing talent would surely blow away my instructors and I would soon be on my way to actual publication. If nothing else, I could start to earn some extra money from home by getting my short stories published.
Boy was I in for a humbling experience! If I recall correctly, one of the first “lessons” involved reading about the novice writer. Characteristics included refusal to revise, becoming defensive over criticism, and thinking one was such a great writer that they did not need to learn more. (I used to think my first draft was always my best!)
After I completed the course, I felt I had a better grasp of the children’s magazine publishing industry and attempted to submit several short stories to children’s magazines. Looking back, my heart and creativity had been thwarted and I was solely focused on the process itself. I had a long way to go in establishing my credibility as a writer. Maybe writing non-fiction would be a better starting point. So I researched and learned all I could about submitting and writing for consumer magazines. Again, my heart and creativity sat in the back room. I could no longer view writing as a hobby. I had to look at is a business.
However, my life was about to take a serious turn. Our youngest child was sick without a diagnosis. I started to see that perhaps my desire to write was more about getting my personal story out there to encourage others. Although it didn’t light a fire in me like writing fiction stories, I felt a sense of satisfaction that I was helping other mothers around the globe who faced similar challenges with their own children. This part of my writing journey (coupled with many more hours of managing my household and learning to care for the needs of my son)–eventually led to me self-publishing a book about my experience. From the writer’s perspective alone, this experience resulted in deciding I would never self-publish again. It zapped every bit of creative juice out of me and since I could not afford to go another route, the final results did not have the visual appeal I had hoped for.
In between writing my initial draft and the final draft and self-publishing, I had also taken another publishing course. This one was focused on writing a young adult novel. After 18 months of outlines, character sketches, plot structuring and many hours of writing, the first draft of No Eye Has Seen was born. At the time, I thought it was excellent work. And this process had sparked my creativity again. But after a half-dozen rejection letters from traditional publishers, I set the manuscript aside. I did not feel equipped to analyze and revise to appease potential publishers. This story had been on my heart since I was 15 years old and I wanted it to be my very best work. So, instead of honing my writing craft, I decided to once again take the practical route. I would complete my education in hopes somewhere along the way I would achieve a professional platform that would pave the way to publication.
Five years and two degrees later, I dusted off the manuscript after joining a local writer’s group. This was it. I was ready to hear what total strangers thought about my story and my writing. I was ready for lots of criticism, ready to be told my story and my writing were far from professional. I was finally that humble writer willing to learn to able to accept the fact my writing process would never end–that there was always room for improvement. Publishing was not even my goal at the time. I simply desired to be the best writer I could be using the story I had invested my heart, mind, and soul into.
After a rocky start (major revisions to the introductory chapters) and only one year later, joining a writer’s critique group has somehow made me a better, more humble writer than ever before. No matter how much they praise my storytelling methods, no matter how much they claim I am a great writer–that little voice within tells me not to let it get to my head. I have a long way to go despite having honed some of the basics of writing and storytelling.
If I am, in fact, meant to write for life, becoming a published author is only the threshold of that journey. It does not mean that I have arrived at my destination when it comes to perfecting the writing craft. If anything, it is the door that will allow me to one day write for a living –in order to truly fan the flame of my gift into its greatest potential and to touch those lives God intended my writing gift to bless from the very beginning.