When I was a kid, I started writing fiction. An elementary school assignment to write a short story over the summer turned into a 106-page handwritten epic fantasy (it had a strong romantic subplot, too!) and I eventually moved into poetry as a teenager, and I wrote some short stories. Most of my English teachers told me I had talent, and I appreciated it, but something in me eroded any belief I might have had that I could make a career out of writing. I went for the lesser of my two passions–science–and due to my brain’s absolute inability to do any kind of math, I flunked out of college. (I majored in Pre-Vet and genetics, with a minor in Classical languages and history–I should have done ANYTHING else.)
When I left for college, I stopped writing, figuring there was no point in it if I was majoring in other subjects. Plus, BOYS and GIRLS and OMG I can do anything I want! (That was another thing–I had zero control or discipline as a teenager ten states away from home and any accountability to anyone, and I ruined myself.)
When I flunked out of college, that killed everything in me. Laden with student debt that didn’t come with the benefit of a degree, I just stopped everything. Went to work to pay for gas to put in my car, some food on the table, and an occasional book. Nothing more. Moved halfway across the country for a man, started a job for the pay and benefits that destroyed my soul for nearly a decade…..in that time, I wrote probably less than a hundred words. From 19 to 30, I wrote nothing, dying inside, hollowing out.
It took a TV show about a high-functioning sociopath (his words, not mine!) and the resulting flood of fanfiction to get me writing again. From February 2014 to April 2015, I wrote a couple million words, a good portion of which was a 537,000-word fanfiction for BBC’s Sherlock.
I was suffocating and stressed out and falling apart and carrying more responsibilities than I should have been, and I had dreams left behind and deep, unspoken wishes I wanted to fulfill. A dream I refused to voice aloud for nearly twenty years was to be an author–but for some fucked up reason, I thought I was unworthy. I let the preconceived notions of how much work it would take and my lack of interest in writing literary fiction to mean I wasn’t going to be able to do it. So I let it go, and that pains me more than I can say. I let imagined gatekeepers of publishing keep me from my dream of dreams and I made life harder for myself by pursuing something I wasn’t suited for or capable of doing, and then settled for a job that paid well enough to hurt to leave, and left me too exhausted to dream.
Five years and one week ago I got sick of reading horribly written Johnlock fanfiction and decided to write my own. That turned into a 537,000-word adventure, and it gave me the courage to try my hand at writing my own original work. The love of writing never left–but I had to encourage it to grow, to flourish, and I had to FEED the need to write. I had found m/m romance along the way and decided to try it myself. The rest was inevitable.
I think this whole recollection of the last 25 years of my life has to do with the fact that I thought, before anyone else, I was unworthy. That writing professionally would be too hard, that I would be starving for fame and fortune and that the gatekeepers wouldn’t let me in–I sabotaged myself long before I ever got my first rejection. I didn’t believe, at any point, that I could do it. So I didn’t.
Now though, looking back at the timing– Self-publishing in the early ’00s was a different beast than it is now. I’m not sure at all how life would have played out if I tried making a career of writing back then. I know several authors now who began then and are still here publishing today and living their best lives–but still, there’s that doubt again.
As a teenager, I thought myself unworthy of the career I wanted.
As a twenty-something, I let forced pragmatism and “reality checks” curb my dreams and burying them beneath the daily grind of working for Uncle Sam.
It took me reaching my breaking point to fight for my dreams, to fight for a better life for myself. I lost everything I thought was important to me and I reached for something better.
I guess all I can say, to anyone reading this right now, is really simple:
You will doubt yourself. Don’t let that doubt kill your dreams. Speak that hidden wish aloud and fight for it.