Twenty years ago this month, in a room just a mile from where I write now, I committed to my writing life.
It started with a class called Writing the Wild Woman. In it, I learned how to free-write, how to howl after writing (it’s fun, try it) and how to enjoy the company of other writers.
Despite the fun, I was also plagued with doubt and insecurity. I feared that a) I had nothing to say and b) my writing would suck.
So I set myself a challenge.
My five-year writing apprenticeship
I decided to write for five years as if it would never be seen by anyone else. I wouldn’t worry about whether it was good or whether it was publishable.
For five years, I filled journals, did writing exercises, took classes and began to teach writing classes. Now, this seems like a long time to dwell in the apprentice’s studio. But it worked.
At the end of five years of genre exploration, I began publishing monthly articles in two Denver neighborhood papers. At that time, I also dove into a major project: my historical novel, which was published 13 years later.
This month I celebrate my twenty-year commitment to the art of writing. I’ve published a novel, a book about writing and five e-books. I’ve published my newsletter since 2001 and have been a consistent blogger since 2006.
I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words, some private, some published. I claim every cliché, crappy word choice and inelegant sentence. I own every brilliant point, every potent metaphor, every sentence that moved someone, somehow.
Writing isn’t easy. I am humbled by the work. But despite the challenges, I’ve gleaned many rewards.
Twenty gifts writing has given me
1. Grit, aka persistence.
3. A way to influence others positively.
5. Awareness of my expertise.
6. A personal growth ally.
7. A quick, cheap way to have fun.
8. A community of smart, creative friends.
11. A lifelong awareness practice.
12. Self-compassion for my hopes and dreams.
14. A constantly-replenished love of language.
15. Knowledge that showing up really is 80% of the game.
17. An art form that keeps me on my toes.
19. A willingness to be surprised by what comes from my pen.
20. Thick skin.
What I’m writing now
These days, another art form accompanies my writing. Since 2008, I’ve been cheating on writing with my side art: drawing and painting. My current challenge is to discover how to marry writing and art to share what’s true for me.
This month, on my twenty-year anniversary, I am embarking on a new book project. I have a mastermind group devoted to book writing – I call it our private book club. I’m excited about this book, because it will challenge me at every step, and because I think you’ll love it.
It’s odd to celebrate an anniversary with a beginning, but I like it. I empathize more with my students, many at the beginning of their writing lives, having the same doubts I have about writing.
More gifts every day from my writing life
I could go on and on about how my devotion to the craft of writing has formed me. But I hope this has inspired you to want to go write your own words.
This is one of the exercises I ask my clients to do – go back in the time machine and look at all you’ve done. It can be illuminating to assess all the effort you’ve put into your art.
Which of the twenty gifts listed would you like to know more about? In a comment below, tell me which ones you’re curious about and think would help you with your own writing life.