Becoming a Writer

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I’m an author. I love coming up with ideas to write about and I love bringing other ideas to life through written words. There was a time in my life that I didn’t think I could be a writer because I didn’t enjoy making things up. Writing fiction was not my thing. When I was in sixth grade I took creative writing as an elective and the teacher told me over and over again that my writing was wrong. My ideas weren’t good. I didn’t set the scene or perfect the plot or use the right voice. She crushed my writing spirit. But I kept going. I never shared anything I wrote because I assumed everyone would think it was terrible, like she did.

Eventually I started sharing my poetry. My friends liked it. And I actually paid to have my poetry published in anthologies stuffed with thousands of other authors – who also paid. I think you’ll find me on page 537, column 2, third row down. I kept writing.

Then something happened. I started college at 19 attending off and on at local community colleges. I avoided English 101 for a while. When I finally registered for it, I was excited (because I like to write), but I expected to get a poor grade and a lot of criticism. When I turned in that first writing assignment – an informational essay about computers and education – I shrugged it off immediately. I did my best. The day she handed the assignment back I was completely ready for the bad grade that was heading my way. But it never came. Instead, I was shocked to see an A+ with curly red comments about being well thought out and nicely structured. Huh. Maybe I’m not terrible.

Something else happened. I remembered a day in second grade. I came home from school and set up a spot on the floor in front of the TV with my markers and a pad of pastel-colored paper. I wrote my own story of the first Thanksgiving, complete with pictures of corn and Indians. And I liked it. I read it to everyone. I hung it up. Eventually I transferred it to my scrapbook. It’s still there. As I remembered this, I realized what my path was – I’m a nonfiction writer. That’s what I was meant to do. It doesn’t matter that I can’t make up stories about unicorns and furry trolls in faraway lands. That’s not necessary for my journey.

I did eventually branch out to making things up. Actually, my last book was creative nonfiction. It was my job to take the characters in the story through time to meet famous scientists who developed advances in electricity like Ben Franklin, Nikola Tesla, and Michael Faraday. It’s one of my favorite projects so far. I can’t wait for that one to be in print so I can put it on my bookshelf.

Over the last few months I’ve received two of my latest books in the mail, and I don’t think that is ever going to get boring. Opening a package to find a book that I wrote, and then watching my kids read it?! Whoa. So mind blowing. And I think back to that teacher who thought I was terrible and sat me down for a conference after class about how my writing just wasn’t very good. How many times her voice echoed in my head, discouraging and condescending. I kept trying. Secretly. But I kept trying.

Today, I get to be role model for my kids. I may not write the next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, but I wanted to be an author, and here I am with four books under my belt. I did it. So now when I tell them they can be whatever they want if they work hard for it, they know it’s true because I did it.

Do you have a writing journey? I’d love for you to share it with me!

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