Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Competing With Myself

Cross-posted from my LiveJournal page:

I'm a competitive girl.

I don't think it's possible to overstate that fact: I am a competitive girl.

If I sit down to play a game, I play to win. I may love you but if you are sitting across the poker table from me, I play for keeps. If I play against you in volleyball, I will do my level best to leave you huddled in the fetal position, whimpering for your mama. If I take a class and the professor says he doesn't give out A's (happened twice in my college years), I will not only earn an A, I will do so in memorable style just to prove the man wrong.

So you'd think pursuing my personal dreams with the same single-minded passion would be a given.

It nearly wasn't.

I've wanted to write books since the second-grade when I took a one page writing assignment and turned it into a four page story told from the point of view of a poor, over-worked school bus. (Having a second grader of my own now, I can fully appreciate the magnitude of producing 4 pages of single-spaced writing at that age.)

I spent my high school and college years being known as the "girl who writes" by everyone. I produced poetry, short stories, and essays that won A's, were published, and lined my door with poor hopefuls clutching impossible assignments and twenty dollar bills hoping I would provide the magic cure for their academic woes.

But life happens fast and dreams have a funny way of sliding toward the back burner, especially dreams that in reality won't pay a decent dime for years. I got married, started teaching, used all my time away from school to write my own curriculum as I wasn't satisfied with what the school provided, and didn't write a creative word for my own pleasure for three years.

Then I had babies, one right after the other (and THAT is a post unto itself, I assure you) and every creative brain cell fizzled and died in the wake of sleepless nights, potty training, gummed up graham crackers, and laundry that, despite my repeated efforts, refused to just go away and leave me in peace.

Most nights I could barely stand to even read a book because it took more thought than I was capable of giving.

My kids grew and my brain began functioning again and with the resurgence of something approaching a normal thought process, creative ideas began flowing. I had ideas for novels, something I'd always dreamed of writing but had never attempted.

Honestly, I didn't know how to write a novel. The leap between a twelve page short story and a three hundred page novel was daunting but the ideas I had needed the scope and breadth of those three hundred pages.

I started one novel. Quit after three chapters because I just didn't know what happened next.

Started another idea and did the same thing.

Life kept moving forward in a blur and before I knew it, another year was gone.

Then I got the wake-up call of a lifetime when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer at the ripe old age of 30. My battle with cancer changed me in many ways, not the least of which was my sudden appreciation for seizing whatever time I had left.

Growing up, I dreamed of being three things: a wife, a mother, and a writer. I'd accomplished two of the three. That wasn't good enough for me.

I sat down, four months after my second surgery to fight the cancer, and started writing. I got to the point where I didn't know what should happen next and I kept going. I got to the middle of the novel, realized what I was really trying to say, and started over.

My first novel took a year to write. Along the way, I met an already published author who took the time to give me sage advice, to critique my WIP, and to offer me my first compliment from someone who didn't care about my feelings.

That first novel is now in Amazon's contest and is on a publisher's desk, at her request. My second novel is nearly finished and I have ten more ideas clamoring for a voice.

I'm a competitive girl, alright. I just forgot, for a while, that competing with myself, pushing myself to be better, not accepting anything less than the passionate pursuit of my own dream, is the most satisfying game of all to win.


  1. Great post on the struggle to be a writer in the midst of all life throws at you. I have two debilitating illnesses, work over 60 hours a week, am finishing up my bachelor's degree and still trying to find time to write. It is all about priorities. Thanks for the story! It was encouraging.

  2. It's like my friend Jeaniene Frost says (her HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE just hit the shelves!):

    "If you don't make your writing a priority, nobody else will either."

    You'll get there your own way. =)

  3. Lucky for me, my husband gives me not so subtle nudges all the time to keep me on track. There are times when, as much as I love writing, I would rather spend my time playing a good RPG or Tetris.

  4. Yes, writing can be a miserable mistress - especially when the words refuse to flow and the ideas decide to fling themselves headlong into a swamp of confusion and your charcters rebel against you, against your plot, and against each other and you can hear your Muse laughing viciously from a distance...

  5. There's times I just let them talk to each other and go take a break.

  6. Very inspiring post. And I love your livejournal page!! "Currently Craving Stilettos"...lol

  7. Gmin103Awesome post, tres inspiring. Question; so everyone knows you write? Like, it's common knowledge? My family knows I write and my online friends, who I met through an online writing/bookclub messageboard. I find that for other people they ask really stupid questions or look down their noses at you.

    Case in point, I have a friend who wanted to know how I could write supernatural things when I'm supposedly a Christian. Which pissed me off.

    Or when someone else wanted to know why I didn't write something *worth* reading, or about the struggle of woman of colour blah blah blah and it just got to the point where I stopped writing until my mom yelled at me, lol.

    So how do you handle that when it happens? Or how would you handle that type of situation?

    [And I fully intend to get Halfway to the Grave for Christmas as does a friend of mine, lol, great excerpt on her site.]


  8. Jage -

    Yes, everyone who knows me, knows I write. I have business cards with my name, web site, and genre on them and I pass them out to anyone who seems interested (yes I keep them while I'm waitressing...met the head of the local book club that way).

    It's a long road sometimes to saying, "THIS is what I write. THIS is what is inside of me at this moment."

    There will always be people who have their opinion or their questions. I'm a Christian and I write paranormal...but I've tweaked the genre so that what I'm writing doesn't compete with my personal beliefs.

    If someone else thinks it does, I can only say to them, "How strange that you would think you know me better than I know myself." =)

    As for the idiots who ask why you aren't writing something "worth" reading (as if all decent literature died with the Bronte sisters) or why you aren't writing a deep literary work examining the plight of...well, of anyone at all - I would give the same response I give to the idiots who want to know why I would adopt my daughter from China when there are orphans in America:

    "If you feel that strongly about it, you should definitely pursue it yourself. I always believe in following the passion of your heart."

    And that's the bottom line. You, Jage, are a writer. You are a storyteller. You have a gift. Let no one tell you what story you should tell, what words you should write, or how you should better use your gift.

    Be proud of who you are and of your gift. And if you have people in your life who continue to constantly question and doubt you, maybe you need to surround yourself with a closer group of friends who won't.



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