The ironic thing is I wrote all the time. As a kid I wrote short stories for fun, created pretend newspapers, and kept a journal for many, many years, however, in my mind, I was not a writer.
I believed writers were troubled souls, men and women who stayed up late, alone, with a glass of brandy in hand, grasping for the just right word, brooding over the fate of their characters.
Me? I just wrote for fun.
In my twenties, after a short stint as a preschool teacher, I traded in my teaching title for stay-at-home mom-dom, but when my only son at the time headed off to kindergarten I found myself searching for something to do.
It was then that I received an email promoting an online course on freelance writing. I read the email and decided: ‘”Why the hell not?”
To my surprise, I loved it. I looked forward each week to finding the next assignment in my inbox. It was hard work, but it was incredibly satisfying.
Around this time my husband and I had attended a neo-burlesque show in town. These performers were artists, moms, doctors, , yoga teachers who embraced their sexuality in a funny, playful way. It was right up my alley. Inspired, I wrote an article about the show for my class.
My teacher thought it was great and suggested I submit it to a popular local magazine. Honestly, I thought he was just being nice.
“I’m not a writer” I said to my husband that night, but my friends kept pushing me, so I sent in in.
Within two days I got a message back:
“We’d like to feature your story in our magazine,” the message said.
Within the week—there it was—my little article on page nine. I was thrilled. Several weeks later, just to make the whole thing even better, a little check came to me for $90. I was officially a freelance writer.
After that first story I couldn’t stop. Pitching, writing, and then seeing my stories print became my obsession. It was my challenge. My quest. I was a writer AND I was having fun.
The best part was I was meeting all kinds of people, hearing their stories, and then sharing their amazing tales with the community. My reward didn’t only come from the check or even the byline, but from getting to sit down and listen to the stories of all sorts of people.
I was also finding that the more I wrote, the easier it was to “be me” on the page. As my comfort level increased, my “voice” emerged. It didn’t sound like any other writer. I simply sounded like me.
I decided then—just for fun—to try writing a book that featured my trademark self-deprecating humor. In Forgive Me Martha, I confessed, in the form of poetry and prose, to Martha Stewart, the Goddess of Domesticity, about my atrocious homemaking/motherhood fiascos.
I was now hooked on writing books. I put my freelance career aside and over the next six years pushed out eight books, including the three-book collection that I’m most known for, The Hungry Ghost Series, a humorous/spooky ghost-themed series for young adults. www.HungryGhostBooks.com.
I have now taken a new route in my writing career—one that blends my passion for good story telling, and my publishing experience. Through my new company, Bright Heart Memory Books I create custom books that feature the life stories of my clients and the people they love. www.BrightHeartBooks.com
One of the perks of being a writer of young adult books is that I get to be a guest speaker in schools. The number one thing I tell the kids who are curious about their own course in life is to “do what they love”. Yes, that’s cliché, but it’s absolutely true.
There’s so many “shoulds” in our lives. We follow paths because other people—or the critic in our head—tells us it’s the right thing to do. But that’s a trap, because we end up living towards someone else’s idea of “right”. It’s like walking around in someone else’s clothes….it never feels quite right.
Instead I ask myself these questions: What brings me joy? Where do I feel peace? Where do I most feel in a state of flow? I listen to my answers and let that feeling, that inner drive, pull me forward.
If fixing cars brings you joy, fix cars. If you feel most at peace taking care of plants, raise plants. If you excel at listening compassionately, help people.
No one told me “you should be a writer”….I didn’t even want to be one! I just wrote because it brought me joy…and it still does. It doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact it’s one of the most challenging things I’ve chosen to do in life, but there’s something about it that pulls me forward. It’s like climbing a mountain, but the top is too clouded to see. I just keep climbing, because there’s beauty in the climb….and plenty of rewards along the way. You don’t need fancy climbing gear, or a name tag that says “mountain climber” on your lapel to go for a hike. You’re just need to be you, a person on a journey, seeking out the next foot hold. That’s all.
That’s the beauty in the climb.
What I’ve found in my writing journey is that there’s no distinction between what I do and what I am. Writing is simply my tool. It’s how I speak to the world…and where I feel most at home.
Find your mountain, love it, and keep on climbing.