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Six years ago, Thad, Cooper and I took a little trip to Colorado. By the time we returned home, Sylvia had joined us as well, and our family of four had taken shape. Our full family adventure began surrounded by mountains.
There were many things I didn’t know yet about myself. I had no idea that just a few months later I would timidly tell Thad my desire to quit my job to be a stay at home mom, and present my plan to sell our beloved Brookside home, move to a less expensive home in a reliable school district, and cut our income nearly in half. I could barely believe it when he agreed, and a few months after that, I stood unemployed, super-pregnant, in my nondescript suburban home.
I didn’t know that being a SAHM was going to be so hard. Tedious days filled with trying to corral my children, keep them occupied, and scrambling to complete any freelance work I could get my hands on became the norm. My nerves often pulled so thin, sometimes snapping, struggling to keep up with laundry as my children rolled around in more dirt in the back yard, the pile of dishes that regenerated hourly, cutting back on expenses to manage in this shaky economy… I didn’t anticipate all that.
But in this state, I’ve found a piece of me that had long gone missing. It all started with this website, emailed to me by my husband. “You like to write, you might like this.” I’d made a promise to myself to explore my love for writing, see if I could develop it into a career, and write the Great American Novel. I’ve had book ideas swimming in my brain for years – since I can remember, in fact – and every attempt I’d made to write one had fallen flat. I don’t know why. But Thad saw Mom2Mom as an opportunity for me to practice my skills, chat with other moms, and maybe, just maybe, talk to other writers.
From this site, I developed a friendship with a neighbor. She’s on this site, and is an editor for The Star. We have much in common, and she has something I covet – a writing career. Her encouraging disposition and friendly advice got me moving in the right direction. She suggested I inquire about the featured blogger position. She called me to tell me she enjoyed my blogs. She told me I could do it – and more than anyone else I know – I believed her. Because she’s a writer and knows what she’s talking about.
Then, another relationship moved me even further. I sat in the pool with my kiddos at my side, and a girl with enormous sunglasses came and stood directly in front of me. “Emily Brown, how are you doing?” she asked. I tried to identify her, but with her glasses obscuring her eyes, one of her most distinguishing features, I struggled.
“Who am I talking to?” I asked.
“I’m going to make you guess,” she retorted.
It was an old friend from high school, whom I quickly learned had completed one book and was working on her second. Our kids splashed and laughed together, and our friendship rekindled. And she gave me a proverbial kick in the butt to get going on a novel of my own, which I ignored. I couldn’t decide which idea to start with. I wasn’t entirely sure of how any of them would end. I’d read about elaborate character studies – which seemed so daunting to me. I was afraid to start, because I couldn’t bear the thought of failing.
But a year later, my high school friend, who I’ll call Tenacious G, dragged me to a writing conference. Two local published novelists, obviously close friends who camp out together with their laptops and work on their series of novels, told how they write. They laughed at how they would start with barely a premise, and the books just unfolded beneath their fingertips. They spent 10 minutes flippantly minimizing the things that scared me most about this whole novel-writing endeavor.
A few days later, I sat down and started, unsure of where I was headed, realizing that the adage, “It’s better to try and fail than to never try at all,” was the place to hang my hat. And the words poured out. My setting returned to the places we'd visited in Colorado, and I began yet another adventure in that setting.
It's so fun. I'm like a little kid, I can build towers with blocks, then crash them down, then build something new. My characters are exactly what I want them to be. My message is exactly what I want it to be. I can put in my favorite things, my darkest nightmares, my strangest thoughts, and if it doesn't fit, I can make it. I paint this picture, I choose the colors.
I watched my word count grow, shocked as it hit 10,000, thrilled as I reached 20,000, and astonished when it neared 40,000, all in just a few weeks. I researched how many words books usually have to figure out how much I had left, and realized I was about halfway done, which fit nicely with where I was in my story.
Three people, my abovementioned friends and a sister-in-law, gave me encouragement and advice. They read as I wrote, offering comments ranging from, "I love it!" to "keep going" to a well-deserved "that's awful, you should take that out." My sister-in-law helped me navigate legal details beyond my expertise. MyKC Star friend offered stylistic pointers. Tenacious G said simply, "I like it. Push through."
"Tell me if I'm wasting my time and should quit," I asked with honesty.
And then I quit. I’d written all I knew about my characters. I was busy at home. My kids had been living on pop tarts, frozen fruit and vegetables out of bags in the freezer, and they needed clean underwear. I needed to vacuum. It was time to come back to real life.
Several months went by where I didn’t write a word. But, it turns out, I don’t have to be typing to write a book. My characters were marinating, the plot thickening, and the details falling into place. The makings of a New York Times best seller? Probably not. Will I be hounded with offers for movie rights? No way. But might I self-publish something good enough that a couple dozen people will read it and think, “That wasn’t too bad.”? Maybe. And that’s good enough for me.
For some reason, I was afraid to open my manuscript, but when Tenacious G once again asked me to join her at a writing group, I knew the time had come. I have to get back into it, finish this thing, or quit dreaming.
And why on earth would anyone choose to quit dreaming?