I’d like to start at the first bite of the writing bug, which occurred in fourth grade upon discovering the Babysitters Club series–long before I knew Bryan. My tastes later graduated to Judy Blume’s Forever. (Find me a girl in the 80s who didn’t highlight whole passages of that sex-education tome.) Then there was Jane Austen and the gang as I got older. I imitated all of those other authors at first, writing for fun as a kid and in high school.
At some point in college after a detour with Art History and Italian, I settled on a double major in Political Science and Spanish with my eyes on law school. I’d given up on creative writing–probably out of fear and self-imposed pressure–only allowing myself one measly memoir class during my senior year. Of course I loved the assignments, the workshop days–all of it. But I ignored how right it felt. The reason why I abandoned the pursuit of law school is a convoluted story involving seven months of my junior year living in Chile and researching a God-awful honors thesis on the political parties there. By the end of college I was neither a writer nor a lawyer-to-be. I was adrift.
Fast forward. I got married young, earned an M.ED in Education, taught English for some time, then stayed home with my first baby. In February of 2007, exactly three months after giving birth to our second child, I cried often (hormones?) about how I’d never become a writer when I had the chance. It was the only thing I ever loved doing, I said dramatically. I sobbed about all the wrong turns I’d taken (three semesters of Italian), and about all the wasted time (every soul-sucking Political Science class ever.) Teaching in a high school setting wasn’t the right fit either.
SO START WRITING, Bryan said.
What’s that now?
Start writing. Just start. What are you waiting for?
Naturally, I had numerous reasons why he was wrong. For example, Mr. Expert, what was I supposed to write about?
It doesn’t matter. You’ll figure it out.
Every time since then when I mention how far I still have to go, he uses some version of the original advice. “Start writing” became “keep writing.” “You’ll figure it out” became “just figure it out.”
Four years later plus another baby in the middle there somewhere, I’ve seen several of my short stories published in literary journals. I’ve also written two novels and I’m working on a third. Of course I hope to publish a book one day, but for now I think of those hidden novels as the writing degree I never allowed myself. Every time I freeze, which is daily, I rely on Bryan’s original advice. I think it applies to almost any goal, which is why I wanted to share it with you today.
START. JUST START. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?