I heard a 23-year-old talk about wanting to give up “many times” already, because she hasn’t made it in the music business the way she’d envisioned. I know at each age of our existence, we have our perceptions, but this floored me from where I sit now and made me think about my own perspective.
Here’s my (very) abbreviated journey as an artist:
Turned books into plays in elementary school.
Dreamed of being a writer when I grew up.
Wrote short stories in junior high (no computers in existence yet…these were all handwritten).
Writing praised by English teachers in junior high and high school.
Still dreamed of being a writer.
Almost majored in English but chose different career path (marcomm related…still creative) because artists starve and can’t make a living.
Wrote more short stories (computers becoming a thing now…hallelujah).
Became mired in addiction and derailed from writing.
Found recovery and plunged in.
Started weekly, then monthly, newsletter to family and friends as writing outlet (it lasted twenty years, and I still occasionally write one).
Got married and created a family.
Still dreamed of being a writer and knew I was ignoring my calling.
Realized good parenting and marital partnership was a full-time job, along with my actual full-time job, managing household and volunteer duties, too overwhelmed to add in anything else.
Became an editorial columnist (this reconnected me to my passion and I stayed one for 15 years).
Became a freelance writer (to hone my skills because back then, you needed cred).
Dreamed of writing a novel—the real calling.
Created my own marcomm company so I could set my own hours and make time to write (one of the biggest leaps of faiths I’ve ever made).
Started working on the novel I knew I’d write since graduating high school.
Didn’t have knowledge of craft so plunged in (how hard could it be?).
Joined writer critique groups.
Three tries and ten years later, had a decent draft.
Hundreds of agent rejections later, self-publish my first novel at 50 years old.
Over next six years, write and publish another novel and four nonfiction books after hundreds more agent rejections.
Last several years, worked hard on craft, marketing, and publishing knowledge.
Vacillated about whether to keep trying to find agent.
Lost mojo, suffered defeat.
Last two years, worked on new projects.
Got mojo back.
Know in my soul writing is still my calling, plus I really dig it, plus it’s incredibly fulfilling to connect with a reader and put something meaningful into the world.
Improve with every project.
Believe in myself.
Not giving up.
* * *
Maybe you have dreams that remain unanswered. Maybe you’ve been hard at work producing your art or pursuing your dreams, but they haven’t quite materialized as you hoped. Maybe you don’t even know what your dream or calling is (you might be surprised how many folks I come across where this is true). Whatever the case, you matter. And this *thing* that you bring to the party that we call life also matters. So, please, don’t give up on yourself, no matter where you are on the journey.
Also, success doesn’t happen overnight for most folks (I’m looking at you, my sweet 23-year-old, who is about to make it BIG). My writing improves with every effort. And that just takes time. Because I can only write one project at a time, go through the process, and repeat. I learn a ton every year, and the whole publishing landscape changes constantly. But I’ve got a song to sing, and so do each of you. Together, we make one heck of a chorus.
So. Keep. On. Singing. Your. Song.
A collection of columns, articles and general a-musings.