When You’ve Been Writing for a Decade and Still Aren’t Published

LRM_EXPORT_110400622001664_20180927_172931690.jpegOn September 12, 2008, I moved to Colorado. About a week later, my husband flew to Florida for a business trip, and since I didn’t have a job yet, I decided to visit my sister in Atlanta. While there, I had a dream that was basically Iliad fanfiction. I told my sister about it the next morning, and she said I should write it. So I did, and it was terrible, and I remembered how much I love writing.

See, I started writing in middle school by–I kid you not–free form role-playing on AOL. Yes, I’m that big of a nerd. But I loved it. I loved making characters and diving into their stories (always my favorite part of books, whether reading or writing), and over time I learned to love crafting my prose. My sophomore year of high school I signed up for Creative Writing as an elective. I was far from the most gifted writer in the class, but my teacher, Evelyn Hall, saw something in me. What exactly it was, I’m not sure. Talent? Debatable. Passion? Very possible. That innate weirdness all writers have? Most definitely. She encouraged me to apply for the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities Summer Honors Program (say that three times fast). I made the wait list, and by the summer, I’d been bumped up and was able to attend. It was the best five weeks of my high school years, studying from great South Carolina writers such as Blythe Starkey and George Singleton. I continued writing after–short stories and, yes, role-playing–for my remaining grade school years.

Then I got to college. And stopped writing. Mostly. I wrote a crapton of essays and I even took one semester of Creative Writing. I picked up other weirdo hobbies, like improv comedy and minoring in Italian because I thought it was pretty. (This is a completely legitimate reason to study a foreign language, imo.) I learned to snowboard, and worked as a bookkeeper with my super relevant Linguistics degree, and got married, and never wrote creatively.

So then, almost a year after graduation, I wrote that totally fun and totally garbage Iliad fanfiction … and it felt like a homecoming. Except home was a little bit different, the rooms different sizes and colors than I remembered, the doors in slightly different locations. In high school, I only thought of short stories. I told people I doubted I’d ever write a novel. But suddenly, at 23, I could think of nothing but novel ideas. It was writing all over again, and yet it was still new. I rediscovered my hunger for creating characters and telling their stories. And I wanted to improve. I wanted to be published.

I’m starting to ramble, and I hope you’ll forgive me for waxing nostalgic. I used to dream of writing this anniversary post and saying, “AND I NOW HAVE A BOOK CONTRACT!” Or at least saying, “AND NOW I HAVE AN AGENT!” Neither of these are true. I’m still writing in obscurity. I have fewer blog readers than I used to. Earlier this year, when I thought about this post, the idea that I wouldn’t have grand news to share on my ten year anniversary depressed me. But now I’m here, and I’m okay. Because you know what? It’s been a great decade.

I got my MFA, which was amazing and I wish I could get another one. I’ve written four books and I’m working on my fifth. I finally gathered enough courage to write high fantasy, my original literary love. I shifted from YA to adult. I love writing bloody things. I embraced my inner weirdness far more than I’d previously dared to. I’ve made amazing friends who feel like long-lost family members. I’ve been to writing conferences, and critiqued books, and attended writing retreats. I’ve collected a decade of literary memories that I cherish.

So yes, I’ve been writing for ten years and I’m still not published. But you know what? That’s okay. Because every day, I get a little better at writing. And every day, I fall in love with it a little more. Writing is effing hard, but that’s why I love it so much. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth a decade of work. One day I will hold my published book in my grubby little hands, and all the years of toil will feel like a dream. A dream I am grateful to be living right now.

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4 thoughts on “When You’ve Been Writing for a Decade and Still Aren’t Published

  1. C says:

    I feel ya, sister! I’m so glad you got this post up. And, I’m convinced you’re on the verge, so I’m really glad I could meet you now while you’re obscure and know that I love you for you and not because you hang with Leonardo, or that guy who played in Fargo, I think his name is Steve.

  2. coleburkewrites says:

    I know how you feel. I’ve been writing “seriously” since 2011 and haven’t quite made it yet, but I still love writing and have no intention of ever giving up. You’ve got to hold onto the dream! <3 We'll both get there someday :)

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