Finding Your Inner Writer
“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain
you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish
and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence in practice.”
― Octavia Butler, Bloodchild and Other Stories
Like many writers, I wanted to be an author from an early age. Well, not at three, like my nephew, but certainly by the time I was fourteen or so. My first efforts weren't fiction. I fancied myself a poet. I wrote short poems, long poems, angry poems, and poems that were about history. I don't know how much I wrote. It all disappeared long ago. And I was ambitious for publication. After lots of rejections from "The New Yorker," 'Poetry Magazine,' and "The 'Saturday Review," I decided to a approach a publisher for advice about submitting for a book!
Just like my mom's Royal typewriter. I wrote all my
poetry on a machine like this one.
Mom had a cousin in New York who worked for a publishing company. so she suggested that I write to him for advice. He was very kind and explained that I needed to publish in poetry magazines before any publisher would even consider a book. That was the end of my poetry ambitions.
In college, I had enough to do just writing papers, so I put my own ambitions aside. Graduate school was the same, then I got married, and writing stayed on the back burner. When I finally tried again, I was no longer interested in writing poetry. An avid mystery reader, my new goal was to emulate my favorite mystery author, Agatha Christie. I joined a writing group and wrote lots of short pieces, but I was never able to plot a novel. I never got past the first chapter or so.
My doctoral program made me into a different sort of writer. One of my other goals had been to get a PhD in history. I did a second masters, but realized that as a member of the history department, trying to do a degree with my colleagues was not feasible. In the end, I did my degree in the History of Education. Then, in addition to my job as the department's Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies, I taught and published in history.
It wasn't until I moved to Chicago in 2017 that I really started thinking about writing again. My first impulse was to write romantic comedy, but that was a dead end. After taking some writing classes and joining another writing group, I decided to combine my interests in romance and mystery and started writing At First Sight in 2018. After three and a half years, and many changes in the story, I published it in 2021.
It has been a long path for this novelist from the hopeful fourteen-year-old poet to the seventy-year-old novelist. I have two books coming out this year, the second in the romantic suspense series and a standalone murder mystery.
Persistence pays. Follow your dream. You never know where it might lead.
Do you harbored ambitions to be a writer? Or some other goal that seems daunting? If so, post it. I.would love to see your hopes and dreams—or the success you've already had.
“Keep a little fire burning; however small, however hidden.”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Road