The Dream and the Reality

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When I first developed this idea that I wanted to be a writer, I was a young mom with three small kids. Let me clarify that I have ALWAYS been a writer in one way or another. My mother still has copies of poems I wrote in kindergarten which I’m certain she keeps for blackmail purposes. In junior high school, I wrote for the school newspaper, which was an honors English class of sorts. In high school I also wrote for the newspaper, but I also wrote for the literary magazine as well. I wanted to be a writer – but I wasn’t certain exactly what that meant, and I also wasn’t sure I could support myself. My dad told me, with all good intentions of course, that I should go into public relations or advertising. That way I could use my writing talent to earn a steady pay check.

It made sense, and that’s what I did. I got a degree in Speech Communication with an emphasis in Business Writing and Public Relations. I spent 12 years writing press releases and brochure copy, video scripts and speeches. It was financially rewarding, but it wasn’t fulfilling me. At night, I wrote in journals. I wrote poetry and short stories and I imagined having the opportunity to follow that dream that had started way back when I was a school girl.

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And then one day, my husband made me quit my job. I hated my job, and it was making me ill both literally and figuratively. I had three little kids and I was making just enough money to cover the costs of their daycare. It didn’t make sense for me to work full-time anymore. So I stayed home with my kids. I wrote them stories that I would tell them at bedtime. Eventually I took a part-time job, one that I could work around my remaining kid in daycare and the year-round school schedule of my other two. I worked as the manager of a ceramics studio – you know the kind where you pay to paint a mug or plate or figurine and the store glazes it and fires it in the kiln for you to pick up a few days later. It was a fun job, not challenging, and in the slow times, I would write.

One morning I woke up and realized that my baby was 6 now, and was in school full-time with the other two kids. I felt the pull of writing in a manner I never had before. But I also felt the insecurity that had long hidden behind my responsible career choices. I honestly didn’t know if I could make a go of writing. What if I failed? What if I wasn’t any good and the only person who liked my stories was me?

I had done some freelance writing for companies like CitySearch, and for a local parenting magazine, but I wanted to write fiction. I wanted to write books instead of articles. I’d gotten involved in a number of writing organizations, and somehow through them I learned about Vermont College and their MFA in Writing. After checking into the program, I knew it was what I wanted, and I have never regretted the decision to earn that degree.

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My dream of writing took on a new life. So many people from that same program had gone on to publish several books, had even won awards! I believed for the first time in my life that I could finally be a successful writer! I dreamed of book signings and speaking engagements. I imagined how amazing it would be to walk into a local book store and see my books on the shelf! I allowed myself to believe this was my future, indulged my fantasies of this new life I would have, and grew heady (and my family will tell you unbearable) with this new persona I would cultivate – the writer me!

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Clearly you can see where this is heading. Despite many years of trying, a lot of hard work and dedication (and if you write, you know it is hard work indeed), I’m this much further down the road, the realities are far different from the dreams. I’ve had 7 books published, numerous short stories and articles, and I’m continually working on new stories. I’ve done quite a few book signings. Some of them have been wonderfully successful, and others I have sat alone or with a friend being horribly embarrassed that no one wanted my books. I’ve done lectures and workshops in Arizona, Utah, Idaho, and North Carolina. I teach creative writing for the University of Utah’s Lifelong Learning program, but the biggest audience I’ve addressed was about 150 people – not nearly the packed auditorium I dreamed of when I started. And the closest thing I’ve come to a “writing persona” is that I write under two different names: my legal name for my kids books, and a pen name for horror. But I’m only me. I can’t take on an affectation as a writer because, well, I just can’t. I’ve been me for a long time and I don’t really want to try to be anyone else. I’ve worked pretty hard to like who I am.

I don’t have small children anymore, I have adults and a grandchild where my babies used to be. I don’t have a big name, but I have loyal readers and good friends. I gave up the dream of what I though my writing life should be, and instead I accepted it for how it really is. I’m really a pretty quiet, withdrawn person, and I think this reality suits me fine. I can lead large groups and teach workshops when I need to, but I have no desire for celebrity anymore. The reality is vastly different from the dream, and quite frankly, I’m just fine with that.

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