February 21, 2017
So You Want To Be a Writer?
Normally, there is a Teen Track at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers' Conference, but that year, due to low turn out, I attended the mainstream fiction track. At dinner, the first night, one of the other conferees mentioned something about a teen writers' group who only attends every other year - and this was the off-year.
I met the other teen writer the next day. One of the most precocious, outgoing people I had ever met. And we still keep in touch to this day.
Already, she had a novel finished and was talking to agents and editors about publishing. All I had was a rough draft that my pre-conference group tore to shreds (I thanked them for it later... but still). I certainly felt a bit overwhelmed and less than enthusiastic about whether or not I could really do this whole "writer thing."
I can't even begin to explain just how much that Palm Sunday weekend in 2011 sticks out in my memories.
I met my favorite author, Lauraine Snelling, and finally got to hear why Grace and Jonathan weren't together by the end of the book (apparently it was unrealistic for anything to happen between them in the time span of the book in the context of the early 1900s). She really shaped my perception on realism in historical fiction.
I heard hymns sung with enthusiasm I'd never encountered before (they have a special place in my heart now - regardless of ridiculously complex melodies).
And several ladies, many about forty years old to seventy, came up to me and mentioned that they wished they figured out they wanted to write at my age.
That caught me off guard.
I wasn't exactly the next Christopher Paolini. One of the authors at the conference even mentioned that it takes a writer, on average, seven years of trying before their book gets published.
I went back to that writers' conference in 2012 and sure enough... there were several other teens that year. Lissa Halls Johnson led the track. And it was that year - I was convinced.
Don't think too much about age when it comes to writing. There is no exact window during which you may or may not be eligible to put out a novel. While there is something to be said for life-experience fueling your work, whatever you do - write what you know.
You don't need a degree for that.
At the end of the conference, I was seated in the chapel beside my dad (who showed up rather unexpectedly) listening as they announced the awards. Pace-Setter, Writer of the Year, Most-Promising New Writer, etc. I don't recall my heart beating as they announced the Most Promising Teen Writer. I kept looking across the isle at my friend from the previous year seated beside her mom (another writer, of course).
Then came the introduction.
Started writing at thirteen. Just accepted into Westmont College, etc. etc.
The description sounded awfully familiar. Funny thing though, while accepted, I didn't plan on attending Westmont, I'd already decided on William Jessup, so the words didn't initially register. Until they said my name.
Then the whole world went into slow-motion as I rose, dodged the knees of the people seated next to me, and made my way to the front, where I received a hug, a firm handshake and a framed award while someone snapped a picture.
I could hardly believe it, even as I sat back down in my pew beside my dad - though I now understood why he came early.
I tucked all those memories away, and remembered them fondly from time to time.
I was only 17-going-on-18 at the the time. Now, I'm 22-going-on-23. And the manuscript I brought to that conference is the same manuscript I'm working on today (draft number five!). College gave me major writers' block and throughout those last four years, I started to wonder if maybe I'm as called as I thought I was to write.
My roommate and I have this thing we call, "doors and arrows." It started when our housing situation got a little screwy, so we decided that we were going to trust God to direct us. We would ask Him to either open or close doors and give us BIG arrows to point us in the right direction.
That thing, "doors and arrows" turned into my methodology for how I looked at my calling in life. More and more, I began to wonder if all the doors I was walking through were leading me in a different direction - writers' block, agents and editors weren't interested in my novel... you get the point.
Doors and Arrows are a confusing thing, at times. After letting go on one dream, I started looking into other options. Those doors seemed wide open - until I started thinking about what I would enjoy about those job descriptions versus what I wouldn't. Did the positives outweigh the negatives? Not exactly. Actually, some aspects outright scared me.
So I took another good hard look at writing.
I actually wrote my capstone for my degree on the historical background of my novel
I love the job description of a writer.
and I really need to finish my stupid manuscript after all the effort I've put into it, the numerous drafts and money spent on writers' conferences.
So, here's to me, attempting to get my inspiration back (I'm a panster, so this is going to be interesting).
This is year six for me.
But as for you... the journey into writing isn't necessarily straightforward. Whatever you do, do what you love, and write what you know. That's all there is to it. And if you do choose to write, really go all out. Don't be afraid that someone won't like your work. The market changes all the time - and you can always become a better writer.
So have courage, dear heart.