I have been writing since I was about seven and old enough to form words with my ABC’s, before that I imagined fantastic stories in my head and played them out as best as my imagination would allow. As I grew older, I started filling notebooks with my stories. Every Fall my mother would buy a set of notebooks for school and a set of notebooks for my writing. Still, I didn’t think of myself as a writer.
Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, Danielle Steele, these were writers, because they were established and people knew their work. I honestly believed, at the time, that unless you were published you could not call yourself a writer. As a young adult, when I mentioned I was a writer the first questions were always, “Oh? Where can I buy your book?” or “Who is your book with?” This constant reference to publication only proved to strengthen my belief that I was not a writer, and so, for many years, I stopped calling myself one or even mentioning to people what I did.
I did not stop writing, I could never stop writing, but I had learned to accept that I wrote for myself and myself alone. It was a hobby, and nothing else, and, well of course, to get all the stories out of my head so I could try and sleep at night! I didn’t think anyone would want to read my stories, after all, I wasn’t published, right? My family encouraged my writing, but even they have not read most of what I have written over the years. Not necessarily their fault, I just kept it to myself.
As a teenager I watched a lot of television or movies, as one does, but I found myself irritated that the episodes never quite seemed finished, or I would envision entire scenarios for the characters that were not being played out in the show. And so I started writing stories based on these characters; which would later come to be known as Fan-Fiction.
As an adult I found websites dedicated to this genre of writing and so, not expecting anyone to actually read my stories, I set about publishing my stories on these sites, as well as creating my own web site. I was shocked at the supportive reviews I received. Of course, these were stories on characters established by someone else, and I was really just mimicking their inspiration. It did not mean I was a ‘real writer’
After my mother passed away, I became slightly obsessed about finishing this one story I had started called Mary’s Tears. It was a grueling year long journey, filled with uncomfortable insight into my own childhood, but also some wonderful memories of the place where I grew up and perhaps had taken for granted as a child. I gave the finished book to my sister, just to ask her take on editing and she was blown away by the story. At first I didn’t believe her, it was just a story after all, just one of my stories, and she was my sister so of course she had to say she liked it.
She insisted that I try and get it published, or at least let others read it to convince me. I didn’t want to do that. I had convinced myself that if I ever got something published I would no longer be able to write, because I would then start worrying if the story I was writing was good enough. I would then start worrying about the people reading it and if they would think it was good enough.
Despite my insecurity, with the encouragement of my friends and family, after multiple editing and re-writes, I self published my novel. It sold a few copies, again mostly to my friends and family, some I just gave away, and for awhile I enjoyed a momentum of praise. However, after the initial thrill wore off, I found my writing somewhat stunted.
I had become obsessed with editing and rewriting during my journey into self publishing, as I couldn’t stop thinking my stories wouldn’t be good enough. It was also the bane of my existence that grammar rules have changed over the years and so what I knew to be correct in writing is no longer so. This made me feel stupid and also limited my abilities as a story teller, because before, it was always about the story, now it was about the readers. I became more and more engrossed in my fan-fiction, and my natural fiction fell to the way-side.
But even in the fan fiction stories, I found any suggestions or criticisms were taken to heart and so I would rewrite or guide my stories towards what I though the readers wanted to read, not so much what I wanted to write. Not all the time, mind you, but enough that it was starting to bother me.
I think we all want to write books that people want to read, but I’ve come to realize that I can’t think about that. I can’t worry if my story is grammatically correct, or realistic, or fantastical enough, or interesting enough. I need to write the story and forget about everything and every one else. It was not an easy pill to swallow, realizing I had been swayed to change the way I wrote because I was so desperate for approval, and while I appreciate all the support that I have received from my ‘fan-fiction fans’ I stopped being a creative writer and a good story teller and became a mimic and only a fair one at that, because I wanted to be a writer that anyone could accept.
Recently I have started blogging and tweeting, and I have found that there is an entire universe of struggling writers out there, just like me, just as frustrated, just as needy for their stories to be read and appreciated, and while I envy them their drive, I find myself lacking in it. I don’t feel the need to sell myself or my work. I tried it for awhile and all it did was depress me because no one was reading what I was writing. I don’t want my happiness or my writing to depend on whether or not a story gets read or published. Kudo’s to those that work so tirelessly for that achievement, and I will endeavor to help them anyway I can, but I am not made that way, and I need to accept that.
So for now, I will try and get back to writing as I am supposed to write. I will still post on my blog, for anyone or no one to read it, and anyone that does, I hope you find enjoyment. Otherwise, I’ll be over in the corner, with my head-phones, my notebook and pen and oblivious to the world as I scribble away at what could be MY greatest story off all time.
So now, I am going to attempt to write just for me, just for the story, and just because a story needs to be told, wants to be told. I am my own worst critic, so perhaps I will enlist the assistance of a friend or two to edit once the final draft is complete, but for now I am writing, just to write.