Friday Speak Out!: Ignoring the Voice

Friday, March 13, 2020
by Jessica Winters Mireles

I’m a committed late bloomer, and didn’t start seriously writing until my mid-forties. Only then did I realize how many years I’d frittered away. I’m fifty-seven now, and on the verge of publishing my first novel.

I often question how I could’ve spent so many years denying that urge to write. As a child, I devoured books. The library was a haven where I escaped the stress of a living with an alcoholic father. This passionate love of literature should’ve lead me to write, but although I constantly constructed descriptive narratives in my mind, my overwhelming fear of not being good enough prevented me from putting those words onto paper. Instead, I ignored the voice telling me to write and dived into a life of teaching piano and raising four children. For over twenty years, the only thing I ever wrote was an annual family Christmas newsletter.

It took a catastrophe to set me on the right path: my youngest daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. Fortunately, after two years of intense chemotherapy, she was cured. And I was cured as well. After experiencing such a life-changing event, my crippling fear of failure disappeared. I’d hit rock bottom, and the thought of not being good enough wasn’t as scary as almost losing a child to cancer.

After that, I began to write seriously. I took writing classes; I blogged often. I was invited to join a bi-weekly group with other accomplished writers, and the encouragement I received from them spurred me on. I managed to publish several articles, and even got paid for one.

Writing a novel is a game changer though, and I almost gave up many times. Although my previous sense of unworthiness had dimmed, that spark of self-doubt would often flare up. I would spiral into weeks—even months—of inactivity. Miraculously, I eventually finished my novel.

If I’d known how distressing the process of querying agents would be, I’d have thrown in my literary towel before I even got started. After two years querying more than a hundred agents and publishers, over half were rejections; the rest never even responded. Only four asked for a complete manuscript. One reputable New York agent held onto it for almost a year. She finally told me, “I really like it, but I don’t love it, so it’s a no.”

I get it. After all, I’m a middle-aged nobody with no brand, platform, or ten thousand Instagram followers—who would want to take a chance on me?

Well, someone did. I finally got a bite from an Indy publisher. Then a contract. Then a publication date. Then a copy editor. Then a cover. Then my advanced reader copies. I cried when I received that box in the mail.

I spent years allowing my insecurities to deny my creative self, believing I didn’t have the ability to succeed as a writer.

Maybe you’ve heard that voice as well? Well, don’t listen to it. It’s lying.

* * *
photo by Eleanor Mireles
Born and raised in Santa Barbara, California, JESSICA WINTERS MIRELES holds a degree in piano performance from USC. After graduating, she began her career as a piano teacher and performer. Four children and a studio of more than forty piano students later, Jessica’s life changed drastically when her youngest daughter was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two; she soon decided that life was too short to give up on her dreams of becoming a writer, and after five years of carving out some time each day from her busy schedule, she finished LOST IN OAXACA. Jessica’s work has been published in GreenPrints and Mothering magazines. She also knows quite a bit about Oaxaca, as her husband is an indigenous Zapotec man from the highlands of Oaxaca and is a great source of inspiration. She lives with her husband and family in Santa Barbara, California. Her website is
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Margo Dill said...

I'm sorry you went through such a hard and scary time with your daughter. And congratulations on your first novel! It is weird the way life works!

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