I wanted to be a writer when I was a little girl – also an astronaut, an archeologist, and a doctor. I almost got there with the doctor thing, but medical school with small children was, for me, an impossible balancing act. I still dream about it sometimes. I mean really dream, as in when I’m sleeping. And I’ll occasionally wake up in a cold sweat believing I’ve missed a biochem exam or I’m lost and can’t find the anatomy lab.
I’m not going to return to medical school. That ship has sailed. And you know what? It’s okay. The timing was never right and I’ve been able do other meaningful work in my life over the years.
Still, I’m sure it’s no coincidence that every female protagonist I’ve created thus far is a doctor of some sort. I guess it’s my way of processing. One has super empathic powers, and the other is an obsessive-compulsive forensic doc, but really, I’ve moved on.
Now I am a writer, and I often find myself reflecting on how I got from there to here, because this destination feels both unexpected and exactly right at the same time.
For years my husband would encourage me to write. His encouragement sounded something like this: “Honey, write a book already!” I would think about it and answer that I just didn’t have an entire story in my head. I’d written content for websites and ads, some blog posts, a little poetry, and correspondence for work over the years, but nothing truly creative since my college days, and even then, not a full-length novel.
I think so much of my energy was taken up raising my kids, working, and running a household, there just wasn’t much left over for creativity. I am not implying you can’t have young children and write. I know people who do it very successfully, but after my workday, their activities, homework, laundry, cooking, etc. I really wasn’t interested. It was all I could do to string a sentence together. Reading a good book felt much more doable than writing one.
Then my children got older. One even moved out. And when the dynamics in my family shifted, I began to consider changing careers. While I pondered what was next for me professionally I took on a yearlong writing project at work thinking it would give me the change of pace I needed.
Turns out it was one of the most satisfying things I’d ever done in my career. Since I was in the habit of writing every day for work, I challenged myself to write creatively every day as well. Lo and behold, when the report was finished a year later, so was my first manuscript.
Maybe I could do this writing thing? Once I freed up enough creative space in my head for something interesting to sneak out, the ideas began to flow. In fact now there are so many, I have to order them to wait their turn!
The artist side of me is someone I haven’t recognized or honored in a long time. She feels like a slightly different version of the person who wanted to practice medicine and fly rockets, but she’s been in there all along.
I’ve learned to embrace the writer’s life with joy and gratitude. There are certainly challenges like rejection letters, endless editing, and not enough time in the day, but I’m willing to work through them in order to do something I love.
So here I am at my kitchen table conversing with the characters in my head and telling their stories. My husband’s new form of encouragement sounds something like this: “Write the sequel already!” And I will, because I couldn’t give up writing now if I tried.