I have to be honest. When I read on social media about someone signing a contract with a publisher or landing their dream agent, I clap for them and then ask myself, “Why them and not me?” Certainly, I have the same writing abilities they do, the same great ideas for a story . . . so why were they the lucky ones?
It took me a long time, but I figured out that luck has nothing to do with it. There was no magic formula, no fairy wand, and no genie in a bottle that would bring my writing dream to fruition. Nope, the only thing that would make my dreams come true was my desire and dedication to hard work. The only problem was, I didn’t want to do the hard work.
And that’s why I was stuck watching from the sidelines as others raised their arms in victory.
My first memory of wanting to be a writer was when I was 9 or 10 years old. I remember lying on the red shag carpet in our house penning a story and then running to my mom in the kitchen and begging her to stop cooking and listen to my words.
Later, I recall playing with my best friends in a sand field in the back of our subdivision. Every time we went there the field would change. Sometimes it would be flat, other times hilly. When we finished playing, I would go back home, pull out my typewriter (yes, I’m that old!) and make-up stories about what was causing the field to change. That’s when my dream of becoming a Pulitzer Prize-winning author hatched.
Hoping to make my dream come true, I became the editor of my high-school paper and then majored in journalism in college. No matter what, I was going to be a writer.
That is, until fear and the realization that I would have to work hard, really hard, to make it to an award-winning level finally sunk in. When I found out what was required of me, I quickly changed my major and kissed writing good-bye.
Like my Wimbledon dreams, I pushed my writing aspirations aside and went on with life. I eventually became a teacher, then a wife and mother. I believed that was all I would ever do or be. But burying a dream doesn’t mean it goes away. Every once in awhile pangs of desire would emerge when something needed to be written for a club or committee I belonged to. From that, my love of writing was reignited. But I didn’t have the time, energy, or knowledge about how to turn it into a full-fledged flame, so once again I let it die out.
Then we moved to China.
Living in a foreign land, I was blessed to have a lot of time on my hands so I decided to experiment and took an online writing class. I loved every minute of it, but because I didn’t have a lot of discipline in my life, I would be late turning in projects or did the very least that I could to get by. Eventually the early excitement I had fizzled. I told myself I could never write an 80,000-word novel anyway and perhaps I should focus on shorter writing projects. Thankfully, blogs were taking off so I started one. While it was a fun way to chronicle our overseas adventures, I didn’t really think anything would come of it so, as I had before, I gave up my writing goals.
But then it was time for us to return home to the States.
After five years of living abroad, we settled back down in Texas. It was great to be back home, but at the same time, I was facing a conundrum. My two daughters were older now and not needing me as much. Soon they’d both be gone off to college and I would be left to start over. But how? I made a list of the three things I was passionate about (writing, organizing, and playing tennis) and thought I could possibly do something with those. When I looked at my list, I realized no one would want to pay to see me play tennis and I didn’t have any clue how to write a book. But . . . I could start my own organizing business. So that’s what I did.
No one told me how hard it is running your own business! I tried every trick in the book to make it successful and get my name out there. Then I learned that writing blogs on your business website was a great way to catapult your name and company to the top of Google searches. With a background in writing (ha!!), I thought I would once again start plugging away as a writer, but this time I would make it big.
Unfortunately, the Internet is a loud and congested world. It was hard to be heard over all the other noise so I let my writing slide. Yet I didn’t let it fall completely back into the abyss. While I couldn’t gain traction as a blogging organizer, my passion for writing did find a spark again.
In 2017, almost 40 years after I first realized I wanted to write stories, I decided to pursue my dream once again. While I had a story idea, I had no clue how to actually make it into a book.
So I did what I’d seen all the tennis pros do. I hired a coach to guide me on the journey. Best. Decision. Ever.
Working with my coach, I learned the craft of story writing. I also learned that words don’t write themselves and if I ever wanted to type THE END on a manuscript, then I would have to put in the effort. A lot of it.
So I did.
I outlined, wrote, edited, revised, and wrote some more. It took me roughly two years to finish that first book (Perfectly Arranged) and I was certain that people would be dying to read it. So I began submitting it to agents, editors, and publishing houses. For all my hard work I only received rejection letter after rejection letter. It was heartbreaking but I was determined to go on. I kept revising and submitting sure that eventually, someone would pick it up.
No one did.
Finally, I made the hard decision to put the book away and start something else. I had plenty of other ideas, so maybe one of those would make its way into the world someday. Rather than give up, I put my butt back in the chair and started writing again. Though no one wanted to read my words or expected them on their desk, day after day, I kept pulling out my pencils and legal pad and escaped to another world.
I’m not going to lie. It was hard to keep going. Since no one wanted the first book, why did I think I could write another? Weren’t the rejection letters indication enough that maybe writing wasn’t my thing? I could have easily succumbed to the doubts and insecurities, but I knew that if I just kept showing up each day and doing the work, that eventually something would come of it.
And it did.
Roughly three years after I first started writing and working with my coach and six chapters into a brand-new story, a small press publisher offered me a contract for my novel, Perfectly Arranged. Not only that, they asked if I could turn it into a series and offered me another contract for two more books!
Yes, dreams do come true. But luck has, or had, nothing to do with it.
Looking back, I can see that it was determination, dedicated effort, and lots of hard work that made my dream a reality. I failed, I learned, I gave up, and then I started all over again. I sacrificed hanging out with friends, watching TV, and playing tennis so I could concentrate on my writing. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do (okay, maybe not as hard as giving birth, but it’s close!), but in the end, it was so worth it!
I don’t know what you may be dreaming of, but I hope knowing a bit about my journey encourages and inspires you to keep going with yours. If luck was capable of making dreams come true, then I’d wish you all the best. But that’s not what makes dreams come true.
No, whatever it is you hope for, be prepared to work for. That’s it.