Due to a bout of bronchitis that began at 2:15 a.m. on Christmas Day no less, I missed a meeting the Monday thereafter with my local writers' group. But I missed more than that. I missed seeing the organizers for one last time.
Ron and Lois started this group, local to me, several towns away to them, at least five years ago. We are blessed to be able to meet at our nearby Barnes & Noble in the mall. I was trying to remember when I first started going to the group and think it was February 2007. I was still working for attorneys and yearning to be a full-time author. Other than my sporadic writing over the decades, going to Ron's group was the first step that veered me onto my current path.
Think if I hadn't taken that step. Oh, my. That would have been more than unfortunate. And yet I was actively talking myself out of going as I was questioning whether I was a "real" author, plus the ad in the Barnes & Noble newsletter touting the writing group stated the leaders were "experts."
Let me tell you: Authors are the most generous bunch of people you can meet. Sure, there are some lemons, but they are few in number and just disassociate yourselves from them. So I gained confidence--in myself as an author, for one thing. I gained confidence in my writing, as I read to the group and they offered their critiques, round-robin style. It was a growing experience.
Of course, I changed careers--taking my attention to details and my grasp of the English language over into a more creative realm, where I am so much happier and free from restrictive formulaic corporate rules.
I'm an author, and loving it. Setting my own work schedule--which is eighty-hours-a-week, or more if you add in the research I do every time I find some topic that interests me (which is pretty much always), plus the online writing seminars I enroll in and just reading about my craft--whether an internet article/newsletter or a hardcopy book.
This is what I was meant to do. I am in my element. I am so fortunate to be able to spend these hours and more on my new career. It is fun, exciting, constantly driving me onward, upward.
Who would have thought one physical step toward meeting a bunch of strangers monthly would so impact my life? Who would have thought facing the demons in my head telling me that I don't belong there would entail a spiritual leap which enhanced my self-confidence?
Let me share those limiting thoughts with you, so you'll maybe see them in your life for what they are. I thought since I was not "published" then I was not an author. WRONG. Just because others that make up the "published" set--including agents, editors, publishing houses, even readers--did not yet know about me, DID NOT MAKE ME LESS OF AN AUTHOR.
My definition of an author is this: you completed a polished version of your story, whether short, FF, novella, novel or tome. Just one, ready to go to press, via the traditional route or the Indie-published one.
Even if you say you could write a book, or may have started one, it is completing the process that sets you apart from the wannabes. Action. Isn't that true in any other endeavor? For authors, that means to "The End" and through the clean-up process of editing.
Being an "author" has nothing to do with revenue. Now, having said that, I can say being a "successful full-time author" would entail earning enough so that you don't need a day job. Like actors. If they get signed on for a big-budget movie, they no longer need to bus tables. In fact, they are still actors even while working in a restaurant, as they wait to be recognized and paid for who they truly are--actors.
Think of any famous author you like to read. My all-time favorite is Nora Roberts / J.D. Robb. You cannot read a book that has not been written yet. Had Nora not sat down during those snow days and wrote, we would not be discussing her now. It was a year or two later before her first book sold, if my memory serves me here, and probably a few years thereafter before she was making a comfortable living, not involving a day job.
So we need the confidence to write that first book without an agent, an editor, a publishing house, much less readers. We need internal self-assurance that if we enjoy this, if we are gifted for this, we should plow ahead. It is really no different than working a 9-to-5 job. You show up. You work for two weeks, without pay. After two weeks, you get paid for WORK ALREADY DONE.
It is the same with writing. Except for the two-weeks-later-you-get-paid thing. In writing, it's a lot longer than that. But your innate drive should be enough to sustain the wait, however long. That, plus a McJob as needed.
Another thought I had was that they are "experts" and I am not. Everybody starts out in learning mode. Then they get better. No different for authors. The more I wrote, the more I gained the confidence in my writing. The more I wrote, the more my fellow authors gave me feedback and I improved on my writing. Somewhere, someone said you need one million words under your belt to really make your words sing.
True, practice makes perfect. That works for artists--pianists, guitarists, etc.--and for fingerprint examiners. So just being a "newbie" should never stop us.
The third thought I was having back then, any one of which could have stopped this forward momentum, had to do with my current routine, and what I was contemplating was brand new, something different, altering my staid daily happenings. I think people as a general rule resist the new, the different, anything involving change. Yet, isn't one of the six basic human needs just that--variety? FYI, the six needs are (1) certainty/comfort, (2) variety, (3) significance (meaning to our life, a grand purpose), (4) connection/love (a place where we belong, are accepted), (5) self-growth/improvement and (6) contribution (to the world, to others).
Did you notice the yin and yang to the list of six? Certainty vs. variety. Or the butterfly effect of internal confidence (as small as a decision) influencing outer circumstances? Love/acceptance (assuring our inner self of our worth) vs. Significance (having the confidence to step out of our element and help the world on some level). Plus the Self-growth (again, inner work) vs. Contribution (outward evidence).
That subject could be its own blog(s), but the quick review above will suffice for now.
Anyway, thank God, I took that new road offered to me. [Actually I saw a sign in B&N's window about the writers' group meetings to be held there, on my way to see my weekly movie in the mall. Talk about serendipity!] And here, almost five years later, I have four e-books offered on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, with my fifth, my debut e-novel, exclusive to Amazon. I have two more e-books in the works and slated for uploads while it is still December (hopefully). All accomplished in 2011. Beginning in March of this year.
What can I say? Thank you, Ron and Lois, for being the impetus, the stepping stone that led me here in my life. There have been other mentors along the way thereafter as I traversed this new career called "author." And my son was always in my corner, believed in me long before I took a tentative step, away from what I knew, toward where I needed to be.
All from one writers' group, meeting monthly, attendees varying, moderated by two loving souls who so enjoyed writing that they freely gave of their time to travel an hour away to another town to instill confidence in budding authors.
Ron and Lois, you will be missed here in my neck of the woods, but you will be a blessing to the new folks you will be mentoring. Thanks for being there for me.