Writers must tell their own stories. And, that’s what this blog is all about: discovering how our personal experiences can lead us to effect change in the world through probing deeper to uncover the truth and using it to achieve self-mastery. We can only make a difference in others’ lives after changing our own. Going where we feel uncomfortable. Allowing ourselves to feel raw emotions. Looking for the positive in every situation. Figuring out how we can use a negative (or positive) situation to help someone else.
Sometimes, writers hide behind fictional characters, who express their own emotions but act out in ways they’d never dream of, to disguise their innermost feelings and struggles with a façade. This barrier gives them the sense that they are sharing without oversharing. Why should anyone care about the writer’s own story? Fiction can be riveting, but nothing beats raw transparency.
I’ve been deliberating about sharing my personal story on this blog. When I first embraced my passion to write stories five years ago, I was a very different person. I was a few years removed from leaving a religious cultic group, still figuring out who I was and exploring religion before eventually adopting an atheistic worldview. Though I still see remnants of these struggles and discoveries, they seem like memories from a distant past.
I wrote from that point of view, trying to unravel the knots in my psyche. Writing was therapy for me. It allowed me to delve into the first twenty-some years of my life, figure out what I could learn from the past and lay out a plan for my future. How could I use that “wasted time” to propel me into the rest of my life, rather than playing the victim?
After penning drafts of my first three novels within 18 months, I thought I was well on my way towards becoming a published author. I had built an author platform. My email list was growing. My YouTube channel was resonating with viewers. My podcast was becoming popular. I was healing from the past by working through my own struggles via writing. I was able to focus on my writing full-time in my mid-twenties while my spouse worked the day job to support us both. I was on top of the world.
Then, it all came crashing down again. While discussing research with my spouse about my current WIP’s villain, I discovered my partner’s own dark side. It was darker than pitch black. I attempted to work through the issue, sought wise counsel and did everything I could to salvage the relationship without sacrificing my own sanity. In the end, we chose to go our separate ways. At age 25, I had already been married and divorced.
I chose to use this situation as a fresh start. I moved to the Central Coast of California from the Midwest to start over. I was determined NOT to get into another relationship and simply to enjoy my new single life. That determination was short-lived because my life took a radical turn. Within months, I fell in love with Jason and his nine-year-old daughter, and we married within the year. My part-time job working from home (to allow time for my creative writing) morphed into a full-time, high-stress job as a social media marketer at a digital agency. I transitioned from being a full-time writer into becoming the breadwinner for a family of three.
Though I tried to “do it all,” I couldn’t keep up with the demands on my time. I decided to shut down my website and stopped writing my novels, in order to focus on my accidental career and new family. This decision sent me down my own shadow career path for the next few years. I lasted at the marketing agency for a little over a year before joining a San Francisco startup making a six figure income shortly after becoming pregnant with my first child. I discovered that startup life in San Francisco was not a good fit for me or my family, which led to a drastic move to “get away from it all” in the San Bernadino mountains during the middle of my pregnancy. (Talk about high stress!)
After my daughter was born, I transitioned into freelancing as a social media marketer. This allowed me the freedom to work from my home office, set my own schedule, spend time with my new daughter and continue breadwinning. As exciting as it was for me to work on new projects with ambitious entrepreneurs, I could not silence the writer inside me. It kept calling me back to write fiction, though I resisted it because I felt the pressure to support my family and spend every spare second working on client projects.
We lasted in the mountains for about 18 months before moving back to the Midwest to be near my family and to simplify our lives. Our goal was to cut down expenses and my client workload, so we could focus on our values and what deeply matters to our family. This vision included getting back to my creative writing. I started writing again in early 2015, and it felt great! I was making progress on my next novel until Resistance reared its ugly head again. I stopped writing consistently only 60 days later.
It’s now the end of 2015. We managed to hit all our family goals this year, bought a gorgeous home in the Midwest, landed a steady gig and settled into a predictable routine. I’m beginning my seventh month of pregnancy with our baby boy. All in all, life is good.
The one piece missing for me is writing fiction consistently. It’s the one habit I’m going to master in the coming year—come hell or high water!
As I approach my third decade of life, I am embracing the person I have become, the challenges I have encountered and how all the pieces of my life will fit together to help me tell my stories. By choosing to focus on what each experience taught me, rather than where I feel I have fallen short, I am becoming better at living which will help me become a better storyteller.
No matter who you are, you are struggling now or have struggled in the past. Just like me, you’ve felt the sting that comes with losing years of your life, whether it’s a year, a decade or what feels like a lifetime. I challenge you to deeply examine those “lost years.” You may have pursued shadow careers or been sidetracked from your purpose by the challenges of everyday life. But amidst all those experiences, I’m sure you can find several lessons learned and areas of personal growth that have helped you become the amazing person you are today.
Your Turn: What’s your own story? Where have you come from? What challenges have you faced over the years? Have you allowed them to make you a stronger person or to help someone else? I am intrigued by other people’s stories, so feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me yours!