A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire...
I felt like a fraud.
My former college roommate asked me to come speak to her advanced composition class for gifted high school seniors. It was part of her unit on careers in writing and communications. She asked me to talk about what it’s like to be a working writer.
All well and good, except at the time I hadn’t published—let alone written anything—in almost two years.
My writing career has ebbed and flowed as my kids have gone through different stages and the freelance needs of the editors I’ve worked for have changed. Things felt steady in the spring of 2013. My kids were in school full time and, though I wasn’t doing much freelancing, I was teaching and beginning to write a young adult novel.
And then, my husband dropped the bomb: his company had asked him to relocate, to the hometown we’d left after college and never intended to return to.
My biggest concern was making sure the transition to a new town and school was easy on our kids. By the time I had a moment to breathe, to focus on myself and my goals, I realized I didn’t know what my goals were. I was depressed. I didn’t want to write. I didn’t have anything to say. Even my novel fell by the wayside. I couldn’t motivate myself to move forward.
My friend didn’t know any of this when she asked me to speak to her class. She only knew that at one point I’d had some success writing for money. I accepted her invitation because it gave me a reason to get out of the house. I had no idea what I was going to tell these bright, inquisitive students about writing as a career unless they really wanted to know how to be a failure.
I can’t remember what I actually did talk about. Or, maybe it was so awful I’ve just blocked it out. I think I talked a little about having a social media presence. I talked about how I’ve gotten many jobs through cold calling or emailing editors. I think I talked too much about failure. I brought along my portfolio, though everything in it was horribly outdated. I was certain they’d all seen through me and sure my friend was disappointed I didn’t have more successes to share.
Jolted into action by this humiliation, I decided to take my own advice. I contacted the editor of a local lifestyle magazine. She gave me an assignment, and then another. I also joined a networking group online. It didn’t replace the creative, supportive friends I’d left in the Bay Area, but it alerted me to new opportunities and gave me a network of virtual cheerleaders. Writing regularly again helped me out of my slump and new ideas began to flow. I’d been silent for two years and now the floodgates had been opened. I placed essays with some online publications and continued to write features for the local magazine. Most recently, I contacted the editor of a local lifestyle blog about writing for them. The result is a weekly blogging gig. The discipline of having a weekly deadline keeps me actively writing even when I don’t have pitches for other publications.
For the first time in years, I feel like I can call myself a writer. I don’t know if my friend will ask me to speak to her class again this year. I won’t blame her if she doesn’t. But if she does, I will be ready.
Join our After Page One series. We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude. The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio so readers can learn more about you and your projects.