The other day I was sitting at a coffee shop with my laptop open to a draft of my next novel (updates and a cover reveal coming soon!) and a chai latte in my hand (because tea <3), when someone sat down on the other side of my table and asked me,
“What do you do?”
I told him I’m a writer. Then I watched as his demeanor changed. His eyes grew wide, and he leaned closer to me in his chair just slightly.
“A writer?” He repeated the words. The thought crossed my mind that maybe he (like many others) has dreamed at some point of becoming a writer. Or maybe he’s dreamed of chasing a similarly creative passion, but never braved the first step. “Wow, that sounds like such a cool job.”
I smiled and nodded. Soon after that I left the coffee shop and drove home.
Nothing about that scene is unique (other than the fact that a random stranger sat at my table). So why am I sharing this story with you? The moment I told that stranger I’m a writer is the moment when I believe he allowed himself to think about his own dreams. The kind of dreams that are romanticized by modern culture, thus labeling them as unrealistic and unattainable. But my words gave him permission to set those negative thoughts aside and truly imagine a life where his dreams were no longer being ignored. A life where his dreams could be respected, pursued, and even attained.
Maybe the reason I recognized the inner conflict in his eyes is because I used to be sitting where he was on the other side of that coffee shop table. The truth is, it wasn’t that long ago at all when I was probably a lot like him in many ways.
Just last year I was recently married, living in a new city and working in retail, all while trying to ignore the fact that I felt purposeless and lost on a very vulnerable, personal level.
Perhaps the most important detail is that I had yet to brave the first step of my creative journey. I had yet to call myself a writer.
Then, one day, a friend suggested that I try out this site called Wattpad – a gathering place for writers to share stories in a safe and friendly community. I had been entertaining the thought of starting a book for months, and this conversation sparked a creative flame that coaxed my dream back to life.
Over the next several weeks, I posted chapters of a fantasy story called An Unlikely Bride on Wattpad. I duct-taped my inner critic’s mouth shut and let fear guide me to what I knew I must do if I was ever going to make it out of the endless sea of misery and self-doubt and find myself on solid ground again.
I clung to creativity like a lifeline – quitting my retail job and deciding to write full-time. Meanwhile I knew that if anyone was going to take me seriously as a writer, I would first need to take myself seriously. Even though the very idea petrified my little heart, I made the goal to release An Unlikely Bride as an edited, completed novella later that year. This would force me to stand before my creative dream (being a writer) and either embrace it or run away. No more procrastinating. No more avoiding. It was time to get real.
So the editing began, along with hours and hours of research as I tried to become an expert in the world of self-publishing.
For those who have yet to read my debut novella, An Unlikely Bride follows the story of a princess who is outwardly fighting for her freedom while inwardly struggling through her journey of self-discovery. Those who have read the book might not know that this story is also about an unlikely writer (me) who, while writing this story, was on her own journey of creative liberation.
One major “landmark” in my early creative journey was taking a road trip with two amazing girlfriends to the Redwoods. If you remember nothing else from this post, remember this: Don’t ever underestimate the influence that your surroundings have on your creative muse. Those days I spent sleeping under a canopy of stars and leaves, and running and adventuring through a silent community of the wisest trees, are all pivotal moments in my creative journey. More than one scene in An Unlikely Bride was heavily inspired by my time in the Redwoods.
Writing and releasing a book involves a mighty steep learning curve. Thankfully, I didn’t have to climb that curve alone. I was welcomed into several online author groups, and introduced to professional editors and formatters who took my manuscript and turned it into a small masterpiece.
I reached out to a good friend and artist who was able to make sense of the jumbled thoughts in my mind and create the perfect book cover that captures the story of An Unlikely Bride in a single, stunning image.
In the months before An Unlikely Bride was to be released, I got to attend my first two writing conferences. The first kick-started my freelance copywriting business to life, and the second solidified my novel writing goals into actionable steps.
The fact that I was able to attend two conferences in a year, and that I was somehow able to pay for them, both confirm to me that my dream had been waiting for my attention. Once I liberated the dream of being a writer, amazing opportunities (like these conferences) presented themselves to me again and again, and still do today.
When my husband and I returned from the second conference in New York, I focused everything I had on releasing An Unlikely Bride. To say that I was afraid would be the greatest understatement of my life. I was beyond terrified. The thought of taking my little story, now transformed into an edited, formatted, and decorated fantasy novella, felt like I was holding my heart in my hands and asking the world (that tends to move faster than the blurred picture above) to stop and evaluate what I had created.
But beyond the fear, or maybe intertwined inside all of the fear, was where my creative voice had been waiting for my green light for as long as I can remember. And because I had bravely taken the first steps out of my cage of comfort and into the unknown (by posting on Wattpad, attending conferences, and making money as a copywriter), I now knew that my creative voice was stronger than any fear. I knew that no matter what kind of reaction I got when An Unlikely Bride was released, I would never silence that voice again. I would never stop writing because, I am a writer.
An Unlikely Bride was released in August, 2016 as an ebook. Family and friends and readers I’d never met gathered to embrace the story and spread the news. Most importantly, I proved to myself that I am capable of following my dreams. I no longer believe that my dream of writing is something to be captured and tamed like some exotic bird. My dream walks just in front of me as a guide, constantly urging me forward into the unknown. Just when I think I’ve mastered a skill, I learn something new that changes my perspective and my writing.
True purpose and fulfillment is found in the creative journey, not the destination. And despite all the emotional days, late nights, and honest hard work that it takes to continue along this journey, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When that stranger in the coffee shop asked me what I do, part of me wanted to tell him what I’ve told you – the raw, unedited story behind my story. The truth to how I came to call myself a writer. I wanted to tell him that my job is a lot more than just, “cool.” It’s a complex mix of a lot of things. I wanted to hold my chai latte in the air and say that sometimes being a writer tastes like chai (or most any kind of tea). It’s both sweet and bitter all at once.
But that’s what makes it real and beautiful. Like most dreams, it requires a lot from the dreamer. And it won’t always feel like some euphoric high of awesomeness either (but sometimes it will). In order to pursue the most important of dreams, you have to drink the entire cup of tea. You have to take the good and the bad, and everything in between, and then ask for a refill and try again.
I believe that this concept is what ultimately defines the space between who is sitting on what side of the table in the coffee shop. There are those who romanticize their dreams, label them as “unrealistic” for one reason or another, and then proceed to suppress their creative desires until they are silenced altogether.
And then there are those who maybe try to suppress their dreams, but for one reason or another they eventually choose to listen to their creative voice. They brave taking the first steps towards their dreams, despite the challenges and doubts that stand in the way. And they do it because their desire to create is stronger than their fears.
So let me ask you, friend. . . What side of the table are you on? If you don’t like your answer, take it from someone who used to be sitting where you are right now. The choice to either pursue your dreams, or to try and forget them, is ultimately up to you and you alone.
What will you choose?
Do you know anyone who could learn something from my story? Share this post and spread the love. We all need to be reminded now and again of our unique creative potential.
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