My road to authordom isn’t particularly dramatic. It’s probably not even unusual. I was a girl who loved books that grew into a woman who loves books, and while that’s the beginning and end, it’s not the whole story.
I started reading at a very young age. According to my mother, I was three years old when I started really reading words on the page. By the time I hit kindergarten, I was a fluent reader and starting to decipher cursive on my own… which threw her for a loop because I worked it out by reading the Christmas gift shopping list and telling my sister everything we were getting from Santa that year. Oops?
But a funny thing happened when I went to kindergarten and had to go back to basics with my peers, something that would become a theme in my writing. I was told I couldn’t do this thing called reading and that I needed to listen to the teacher. To be fair, the teacher never sat me down and told me I wasn’t able to read or that I wasn’t smart enough. Nothing as blatant as that. Instead it was a subtle guidance designed to make me fit the mold of the rest of the classroom. Forget that I was reading cursive. I needed to sit and learn my ABCs with everyone else. Sit down and do the lessons like a good girl. In a few months, I went from being a competent reader to being unsure I was capable.
This is the first setback I can remember in what became a lifetime of self-doubt and listening to others instead of myself.
Fast forward two years. I moved to a school that placed a big emphasis on reading and language. Once a year, the school would bring in a children’s book author to speak to us. It was the first time I associated a real human being with all those wonderful books on the shelves and the first time it occurred to me that I could be one of those humans. I remember walking back to the classroom that day and telling my teacher I wanted to be one of the people who makes books. She glanced down and me and said, “You’d have to be smart enough to have a story to write, first.”
My newfound dream popped like a balloon.
Fast forward again, this time to a teenage me. That idea of being an author had been at the back of my head, refusing to die. At age fourteen I had a surge of confidence. I could do this, couldn’t I? That year, I asked for a typewriter and desk for Christmas. I didn’t tell my parents why I wanted them, just that I did. I spent four months struggling to come up with a story. A romance, of course, and fitting with the popular stories of the time, it was a Victorian-era western. When I finally worked up the courage to admit to my parents I was writing a book, my father told me to stop wasting time with that and spend more time on homework. Mom told me writing was a nice hobby but when I was an adult, I’d need a real job.
My book went in a drawer and I didn’t look at it again.
Another fast-forward. Now I’m a twenty-four year-old wife and stay-at-home mother. The writing bug hit again and I looked to the internet for guidance. I found writers’ groups on Yahoo! and started a story that involved a bank robbery and explosions. My husband thought it was cute until he realized I was writing when he was home. Why was I sitting at the computer instead of watching boxing or a Clint Eastwood marathon with him? The “that’s nice” pats on the head turned into, “Why are you wasting time with that crap?” One day I heard him on the phone with a friend, reading part of my story and making fun of my “porn for women.”
I deleted the file that same day.
Twelve years later I was divorced. My favorite way to get to sleep at night was making up stories in my head. I hadn’t written down a single word of any of the stories, because the idea I could actually write was pretty stupid. Everybody said so. Except I had this one idea that wouldn’t go away. It just kept getting bigger and bigger, the character more and more real. I knew it was a real book, all mapped out in my head. And guess what, my parents and ex weren’t around to tell me I was stupid for even thinking I was good enough.
So I started writing. And it was a mess. but through that mess, I had a sound storyline and a character I just couldn’t get enough of. I went back to the internet and rejoined some of those writing groups. I soaked up what information I could on writing and publishing, then one day I was asked about my book. I shared a bit about my hero, who I admitted was a bit of a jerk. Was I going to fix that and redeem him? No, as a matter of fact, I wasn’t. being a jerk wasn’t a problem that needed fixed, it was just part of his personality. the Established Queen Author of the group told me I was stupid and needed to quit writing, because I obviously didn’t know what I was doing.
If you’ve been paying attention, this is where insecure Voirey was supposed to fold up like a card table and hide under a rock. Except I’d just gone through a nasty divorce and wasn’t putting up with any crap from anyone.
I got mad and wrote. I was churning out about 3K every night after the kids went to bed. I found someone to read what I had and tell me what I needed to fix. I found out about Nano and rocked that muther every night.
I wrote, and it was a glorious mess.
I wrote more. I wrote different things. I wrote all those bedtime stories I’d told myself over the years. Until, finally, I wrote a book I was ready to publish. I buckled down and prepared for the rounds of sub-and-R it took to get published. Instead, I was offered a contract on my second submission.
After a lifetime of hearing the message that I wasn’t good enough, someone told me I was.
I’m not going to pretend I haven’t had some setbacks since then. Self-doubt, unfortunately, doesn’t just go away. But it’s different now. Because someone told me I’m good. Because readers have enjoyed the books and taken time to leave reviews. I can know I’m good, even when I feel like a failure, and if I say it enough, I can start to believe it.
Condensing a lifetime of setbacks in one blog post makes it sound pretty extreme, but like I said, my story isn’t unusual. We all have someone somewhere who holds us back. Sometimes it’s a genuine concern for our well being highlighting obstacles. Sometimes it’s their insecurities giving voice to our own. Other times it’s their frustrated ambition looking for a foothold to get just one more step ahead. They are always around us, whispering words that can take root and grow self-doubt.
I’m insecure and sometimes the biggest opponent my writing has is the echo of words in my head, telling me I can’t do it. Ignoring that voice is a frequent battle. Sometimes i fight it daily. Sometimes it only rears up its ugly head when provoked.
But i do ignore it. I tell it to shut up, and I write. Because my head is full of stories, and I’m good enough to tell them.