So I am just starting writing as a career. I have not sold any stories yet, but there are a few sitting on someone’s computer right now waiting to be read and hopefully accepted. So it might seem a little weird that I think of myself as a writer, but I have been using the word out loud since I hit send on that first story on February 13. But there is a reason for this, I promise.
I have always made up stories. Ever since I was a small child, before I even got the writing thing down. I was pretty solitary, so I made up worlds and adventures in place of complex relationships. At some point I started putting them on paper. But there was something of a problem. A story would start to form in my head and I would start writing it down. The plot of the story was always a little ahead of my writing. It was like reading a mystery novel. You know how sometimes you figure out “who done it” way before the end? My problem with writing was like that. As soon as I knew what was going to happen, the need to write stopped. So I would have half a story on paper and a whole story in my head.
From around 8, when I started doing this, until I was 17, this was not a problem for me. I think in that whole time I finished one story (for a contest, I never turned it in). It was not so much about too little confidence. I thought my writing rocked! I just did not feel the need to have anyone else read it or get it published. Writing was something I did for me.
Around 17 or so, it hit me that maybe I could write as a job. I had good ideas, I have an interesting turn of phrase, and I am good at imagery. But old habits are hard to break. I would start story after story, stopping before the end. I would just get bored. I always planned to come back and finish, but when I would look at a story again the ending would be forgotten or it would just not seem as good as it did when it was fresh.
So here is where the lack of confidence comes in (you knew it had to show up, right?). I got to thinking if I can’t even finish a story then this plan to someday be a writer was sort of stupid. So I actually made an effort to not write. When I found myself thinking about a story and writing those first few paragraphs I would berate myself. I first put my imagination into gaming (DM and GM for table top games, later live action character development). Then I put my talent for stories to work making myself into a character. I became less solitary. I worked on being funny and charismatic, telling great jokes and stories. But every once in a while I would find myself working on a story.
But even though I told myself writing was stupid. That it was too hard. That no one would ever want to read my stories, the dream stayed alive. I had a someday fantasy. Someday I would write a story and it would be good. Someday other people would want to read it. Someday I would become a full time writer. I would get paid, not like J.K Rowling, but maybe about half as much as I would get from my job or career at the time. Yes, I was (and to be honest still am) ok with making $3.50 an hour writing.
I got to where I started making myself finish stories a few years ago. Not many. At first one every few months was a huge accomplishment. Then a few more, sometimes two in a month. Then no stories for six months.
In August of last year (2011), I decided I was going to throw myself into writing. I was going to stop working outside the home and work on stories every day. I did the first part. I stopped working. But the writing did not happen. Oh sure, I had as many story ideas as normal, maybe more, but I was going to be a real writer. For some reason every idea I had was not good enough. In December I posted a story to this blog. Then nothing for the next month.
One day at the end of January I woke up and I felt like it was the right day. I spent the whole day looking up magazines and anthologies that were looking for submissions. I looked at well over 100 different markets. I narrowed them down several times until I was left with the five I felt best suited for. Then I started writing stories just for those. The first story I wrote was for http://www.innsmouthfreepress.com/ and it was the hardest I have ever worked on a story. I did research, I wrote and rewrote. I asked people to read it for me and got feedback. I felt giddy pleasure when it was going well, and I cried when it was not.
I guess I needed it to feel like work. I had a database of markets. I had stacks of history and mythology books. I read stories in the style I felt they were looking for. I worked on it for at least eight hours a day. It was work, and it was really hard. I almost gave up a few times. Then on February 13, I was ready. I had to have stared at that send button for ten minutes before I pushed it. What if this was the wrong story? What if they hate it and it gets rejected and I never have the confidence to write again? What if I had skipped this one and went on to my second choice first? Would it have been a better first story?
And then I pushed send. It was gone and whatever happens next is out of my hands. I know I worked as hard as I could (perhaps to the detriment of the story). I know that I can and will work hard to someday get published. So what if I have not been published yet? I still say that I am a writer.
Since then it is like a gate has opened. I have finished four stories in the last three weeks. One has been submitted, and one is almost ready to be submitted. I have pages of story ideas, and of course a spreadsheet of what I need to be working on. I am reading the magazines and anthologies that interest me. So if nothing else, at least I am profiting from the great stories that I might not have read if not for my new career.
I hope I hear back on the stories I have submitted soon, and I hope I can tell you good news. If not, I hope I get a few more sent in before I get bad news.