As many of my readers are also writers, I thought it might be fun to share with you a little bit about my writing journey…I hope it will prompt you to think about your own journey, and encourage some of you to share some of your own stories, or writing goals, in the comments section below.
I composed my first poem, entitled ‘snow’ when I was just four years old. I’m sure it wasn’t a masterpiece, but my mum eagerly jotted down my ramblings onto a scrap of paper, and for many years, kept it, folded up inside her wooden writing bureau. I’m pretty sure my love of story began even earlier than this, but because I have something tangible to look back to, I often mark this poem as the beginning of my writing journey.
How about you? When did your writing journey begin?
My love of creative writing grew steadily throughout my childhood. I didn’t think too deeply about it at the time; it was just something I loved to do. I loved writing stories, and keeping journals, and did so on a regular basis. Looking back now, it’s clear that I had all the hallmarks of an aspiring writer. I wonder if you can relate to some of these too?:
- My favourite subject, hands-down, was always English. I managed to get straight A’s in both Literature and Language, largely because writing essays – organising my thoughts and observations on paper – was never a chore;
- I was a voracious reader – I was the type of kid that strained my eyes, trying to read in the dark, long after my mum had tucked me in and turned out the bedside lamp;
- I had this nerdy little notebook in which I scribbled down any unfamiliar words that I came across, and then actually enjoyed looking up their meaning in the dictionary afterwards;
- I used to day-dream a lot, especially on car journeys with the radio on, making up romantic stories in my head;
- Speaking up, was often a real fear of mine – but expressing my thoughts on paper came easily;
- My friends and I started a Writing Club when we were around 13. We would brainstorm all kinds of titles, and then write poems or compositions and read them out to each other;
- I once got a lecture, from my exasperated father, whilst on a family holiday. It went something like this: “We didn’t bring you all the way out here just to sit inside and read. Why don’t you just go out and DO something!” (Ha! I thought this was terribly unfair at the time. As far as I was concerned, I WAS doing something. But looking back, I kind of understand.)
losing the plot…
I was an 18 year old ‘junior technician’ working at an insurance firm in the City. One day, as I sat daydreaming out of the office window, it dawned on me. I was not cut out for this. I looked around at all the ambitious brokers in their suits and brogues, cutting deals on the telephone, and realised that I was a complete fish out of water. I mean, who was I trying to kid? If truth be told, I was a hopeless technician. I was far more interested in thinking up silly limericks, than trying to apply my mind to anything remotely mathematical or ‘technical.’ All of a sudden, I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do with my life… and it certainly wasn’t this. I wanted to be creative. I wanted to write books! (If I had told my 18 year-old-self that I’d still be trying to reach that goal at the ripe old age of 45, I wonder if I would have just given up there and then?)
Soon after, I handed my notice in…and landed up working in a clothes shop! I soon discovered that you can’t just decide one day that you’re going to quit your day job to become a writer. Life doesn’t work like that. So, writing became a hobby. I was delighted to learn that many successful writers held down day jobs, and made time to write in their spare time.
I went through several more years like this, working in various admin jobs, all the while sensing that I’d never really found my niche.
I bought dozens of books on how to write, particularly on how to write for children. I spent the next few years filling notebooks, with dozens of kids poems, stories and odds and ends. I had ideas for chapter books buzzing round my head. I had countless stories and picture book ideas saved on my computer.
And then one day, I decided to take the plunge and send off my first manuscript… After all, what good were all of these poems and stories stuck away in a file somewhere?
I took my first rejection letter with a pinch of salt. It was par for the course. Part of the deal. No biggie. But six months later, after a parry of generic similar sounding let-downs, it all began to get rather discouraging. But still, I kept going.
THE AUTHOR WHO NEARLY GOT PUBLISHED
Then one amazingly normal day, quite out of the blue, the phone rang. I was a young stay-at-home mum at the time. Lydia, my four year old daughter, who loved to answer the telephone, announced (rather nonchalantly) “mummy, a lady wants to talk to you about your book!”
Wait… What?! Mouth wide open. Are you kidding me?
I shot to the phone, quite a’quiver, and discovered that it was indeed an ACTUAL real-life editor, wanting to talk to me about my book! She said she loved it! But, she wanted me to make a ton of changes and resubmit it.
I absolutely agreed to do whatever she asked. I mean, crikey, this was my big breakthrough moment! I set to work, rewriting the story, taking on board all her suggestions and dutifully resubmitted the manuscript. And then… I nervously waited.
A week went past. No news. No sweat. I mean, Editors are busy people.
A fortnight later, I was still avidly checking my inbox a gazillion times a day, but still… Nothing. Not even an acknowledgement.
A month came and went…. Not a bean, Josephine. By this time, I had the total jitters. What should I do? Would I be seen as an annoying novice nuisance, if I chased this up?
Almost six weeks later, I finally plucked up the courage to email the publisher, to see where I stood. A few days later I finally got my answer. The editor who had been working on my submission, had suddenly left the company and the project had been dropped. I honestly felt like the bottom had fallen out of my world. This was the pits. I would be known hereafter as the author who almost got published.
I must admit, for several months, I wondered what God was doing. Rather than rejoicing at how close I’d come, I wallowed in disappointment. I concluded that God must want me to stop writing altogether. Maybe it was the wrong time. Maybe this writing thing was becoming too much of a distraction from the things that really matter. It was a very confusing and difficult time.
GIFTS ARE FOR GIVING!
A few years went by, before I picked up my pen again. Life was hectic. I had four young children. I barely had time to think, let alone write. Yet often, when I picked up a novel, or read a story book to my kids, there was this huge pang within me. I felt like I’d missed the boat. I knew I should be writing. I just felt like I’d lost my way.
I began to pray about it all. Was my writing a God-given gift, or an earthly distraction? If God wanted me to lay it all down, then why did I still want to do it so much? What if I got to heaven one day, and He asked me why I had buried my talent?
And then I thought about the verse which says: “freely you have received, freely give.”
What if I was putting so much emphasis on the final destination, i.e. getting a book published, that I’d forgotten to enjoy the journey? What if, during the waiting period, however long it might be, I tried to use my passion to bless others?
A BLOG IS BORN
And so in Jan 2016, having absolutely no blogging experience whatsoever, I set up this blog and wrote my first post. I had no grand designs. No great plan. My motto was, and still is, that if by sharing a few thoughts, I managed to encourage just one person, then it would have been worth it. And if nobody ever read my blog, well, at least it was a place to practice the craft.
the journey continues
Since starting this blog, I’ve had a small degree of success within the Christian Publication market. I’ve finally managed to break into print (albeit, the very first time I got published, they managed to spell my surname wrong!) I’ve written around 10 short devotional stories for Keys For Kids Ministries, and had an article published in Creation Illustrated Magazine.
I’ve also had a ton of rejections and some pretty low moments too.
But I’m learning that perseverance and patience pay off eventually. I’m also learning that getting published is not the be all and end all of life. Writing, like all creative pursuits, is meant to be enjoyable, not an endless source of frustration. I would never tell a painter to stop painting just because they never sold any of their art. So wherever you’re at on your journey, keep going. Don’t you dare give up! Keep writing. Keep being brave and sharing your stories. Keep learning. Keep connecting with other writers. And most of all, don’t forget to enjoy the journey!