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.
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|photo by Eleanor Mireles
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