I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.
No, really, I’m not being cliché. One of my first memories was scribbling on the inside of my children’s books, drawing lines that were supposed to resemble text. In my mind, I was adding to the story. I was adding characters, dialogue, plot points– in my mind, I was making it better. Whether or not my scribbles made the book better was left up to my great grandparents, the people who bought the books and let me scribble in them in the first place.
I wrote my first “story” when I was in middle school. I remember writing it in tiny notepads, giving to me by a teacher, who’d gotten them from some school grant and been instructed to pass them out to the class. I was the only one in my class who used them. And when I used up all the pages in the two notepads, that’s where the story stopped. It didn’t occur to me that I could just, you know, get another notebook. I threw them away, embarrassed by the fact that I never finished.
In middle school, I wrote really crappy poetry like every other twelve-year-old. I also discovered the art of fanfiction. I filled notebooks and binders with ideas, plots, and lots of really bad purple prose. I had a sizable internet following. I wrote two or three pretty successful fanfics. It boosted my confidence as a writer–don’t ever underestimate fandom.
When I was 14, and in the 9th grade, I tried to write a book. Tried. I had a plot, I had characters, and I had a mental play-by-play of everything I wanted to write about. The book never happened. By 11th grade, I had about 30 pages written, and that’s when I realized that I wasn’t a good enough writer to execute the story. This killed my confidence. I tried to start writing different books during that year, but I was never successful. I retreated back into the fandom writer’s community, where I felt secure. I felt like I could succeed there.
During my freshman year of college, I discovered Slam Poetry/Spoken word. It spoke to me in ways that written poetry never could. It was something that I could feel in my soul. The first Spoken Word Poet that I ever saw perform was Andrea Gibson; her poetry was the soundtrack for the rest of my year. The following summer, I had my very first real heartbreak; naturally, I started writing spoken word. I was all achy inside, as most heartbroken freshmen are. Poetry was my relief. I discovered a new talent; I found something that I was actually good at. I pushed aside my feelings of inadequacy, concerning my inability to write a novel, and threw myself into my poetry. This worked…for about three years.
In November of my senior year in college, NaNoWriMo called to me. I dusted off some of my old material. I tore it all down and built something new. Something fresh. Something I could believe in. I didn’t meet my NaNoWriMo goal (I was student teaching. It was nearly impossible to stay up past 8pm), but I proved to myself that I could write this novel. I proved to myself that it was within my grasp, even if it did take years for me to finish. So I kept writing. I gave up 3 or 4 times along the way, but it’s done.
I’ve been writing for a long time. Not all of it has been good, but it’s something that I’ve accomplished. Sure, I got discouraged. I quit. I distracted myself with other talents and hobbies. Nevertheless, I came back. No matter what, I believe that I will always come back to my craft.
After years of doubting myself, and doubting my capacity, I finally have the confidence to call myself a writer. My book isn’t published (working on it) but it exists, it’s tangible, and it’s a reminder that failure isn’t the end. Giving up isn’t the end.
Feel free to give up as many times as you need to. If you want it bad enough, you’ll have it.