Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. Maybe it started when I learned how to read, or before that, when I received my first journal at age five. It was a beautiful little red velvet book with the words, My Diary, spun in gold thread across the center.
With painstaking effort, I wrote one and two sentence entries, filling about half the book. Journaling would become a lifelong habit, but my deepest love was for fiction.
Books became my escape, my most loyal companion. I loved losing myself in someone else’s words, falling into another world. At mealtime, I almost always had a book poised in front of my face. Somehow my parents allowed this. Perhaps my devotion to reading amused them, but I know most of all it made them proud.
Now here I am living the first part of my dream. I’m a writer. I write. Even during those hibernation years after having my first child, I wrote blog posts and kept journals. Writing is how I process life; writing is the mirror I use to see the world.
But there is another part of my dream. One that I’ve held onto since I was a young girl devouring Young Adult books in my room, collecting them on my shelves.
I want my book there, too.
When I was about ten years old, I knew this. On the inside of my dresser, which I had transformed into a bookcase, I wrote the following affirmation on an index card:
“I will publish a book by the time I am eleven years old.”
As you can imagine, this story did not end well. The next year I crossed out “eleven” and wrote twelve,” and so on, until I finally ripped the card off and threw it away.
Looking back, I feel such empathy for my younger self, so full of big dreams. Isn’t that one of the beautiful things about childhood? How we believe anything is possible?
After graduating from college as an English major, naturally, I applied for and was offered a job at the local Barnes & Noble. I loved this job, and it was with regret that I gave my notice several months later when I got a publishing job in New York City. But working there, surrounded by books, I superimposed my name on the spines I arranged. My index card dream was still alive.
Here I am, nearly two decades later, writing with more confidence and joy than ever. I’ve had stories published in journals, which is thrilling, but I haven’t made it inside a bookstore – yet. That dream remains to be seen.
The truth is I have little control over this part. It’s based on the whims of others, on the now shaky venue of traditional publishing.
It may not happen.
All I can do is reach for it with my words. All I can do is keep writing.
What are your dreams? If you’re a writer, is traditional publishing your goal, or is self-publishing a viable option?