I began what I consider my “writing career” in the fall of 2003. I had moved to a new state to go to a new university, leaving behind all I knew and loved. It was a wonderful experience. It helped me grow. It helped my writing grow, as well as my motivation to continue writing. The process of learning craft began with a book that went nowhere. It continued with my first completed manuscript, that clocked in at a whopping 175,000 words. (Somewhere around the 3/4 mark, I realized I’d actually written two books that would eventually need separating. Craft-learning in action!) I then got married, left school, and moved to Florida so the spousal unit to go to school so he, too, could follow his dream. I finished a second book, the first in a series that I’d been playing with over and over and over again in various non-book formats since high school. It received lovely comments from an editorial assistant, but in the end was just not *quite* good enough. And then my critique partner and good friend went on the fritz. The spousal unit got busy…REALLY busy. My family fell apart. I gained more weight than I care to ponder. Bad things happened. And I stopped writing.
Then I started setting goals again, goals that didn’t include writing, but were moving in the direction of productivity. I went back to school. I had a baby. Last December, I tried to write again. It was agony, the second-guessing myself, the doubt, the feeling of total failure. The agony of the years left unwritten depressed me to the point of giving up (that, and the sleep deprivation that comes with an infant who does not like to sleep).
A few months later, I reread what I wrote in December.
It’s the best thing I have EVER written. Despite being rusty. Despite the doubt. Despite the total failure and the brain that didn’t want to work. And it was FUN. And FUNNY! Hope birthed again, and I plowed through finals to complete the semester so I could get back to my writing without the mental drain of school.
Tonight, however, I find myself nostalgic, and keenly away of the years I wasted. And the doubt is back. I stagnated because I hit a ceiling of my own ability. I was good, but not *quite* good enough to publish. Without the influence of critique partners or writing groups, I had no idea how to fix the problems. I couldn’t even SEE the problems, beyond the recognition that they existed. Tonight, I recognize that I have the capacity and perspective to tackle them. But that doesn’t change the years I threw away on silly, stupid things. The years I hid from my failure instead of kicking it aside and making it eat my creative dust.
Tomorrow will be better. But tonight I mourn my writing youth and time unspent yet gone all the same. Tonight, I allow myself to be filled with writer’s angst.
And I sleep, so that tomorrow WILL be better.
Tomorrow, I conquer.