Once upon a time, when I was young and hopeful and naïve, I dreamed of writing romance novels. No. I yearned to write romance novels. I fell asleep thinking of my characters and their lives. I woke up missing them. I developed in-depth, real-time scenes in my head for the first kiss, the black moment, the resolution, and every poignant interaction in between. At one point, I went to a Tarot card reader (as one does when one wants desperately to know if ones dreams will come true) and this is what she said:
Just keep writing and the rest will come.
I walked away feeling bereft. Why? Because writing was the one thing I wasn’t doing. And I was afraid that it was the one thing I couldn’t do.
Now, of course I was doing some writing at this point and had been for years. Snippets of character description, short paragraphs or even single lines that would pop into my head at a time when the only thing I had to write on was a gum wrapper. On a few occasions, I’d even started a couple different novels. But I wouldn’t keep writing.
Inevitably, I’d look at what I had gotten down on paper and I would feel sad and discouraged. Because the words never came close to those rich, emotional scenes I had banked in my brain. So I’d set the writing aside and keep building on the store of characters and stories and scenes in my mind, until my next failed attempt.
But those Tarot card reader’s words constantly hung over my head. I grew to hate them. For their simple truth and how easily they revealed my weakness. I wanted to be a writer, but I would never be one because I didn’t have the courage to just keep writing.
Thankfully, even my fear was not strong enough to stop new ideas from taking hold, and stories just kept on flooding my thoughts. It got to be that there was just no room for more. I had to write to get some of it out, even if what poured onto the page was total shit, which it was. I kept writing anyway. Though it took seven years to complete my first full manuscript, I eventually did it. It was terrible, but I had kept writing and learned a lot about myself in the process.
Most importantly, I learned that if I really wanted to do this writing thing, I needed to step up my game. I couldn’t just sit down to write whenever it felt convenient or I felt inspired. I had to approach it with far more dedication than I had displayed to that point. I think it was the fact that it took seven years, and that in having that finished product, I realized I wanted more. I had more. More ideas, more characters clamoring to get out.
That is when I finally incorporated some discipline into my writing. If I wanted to be an author, I needed to write. Everyday. Or as close to that as I could manage.
I started setting my alarm clock more than an hour earlier so I could get up, get ready, get my coffee, and get to writing before starting the rest of my day. Even if I had no idea what to write, even if I could see that what was flowing onto the page was crap, even if I felt certain I was doing it all for nothing, I had to just keep writing.
And, over time, it got to the point that I’d sit down to write and there would be no automatic sense of panic and only the occasional wave of doubt. I wanted to write. I had to write. And that is what I did. I still have times when the words don’t flow and the old fear creeps back in and I am positive that I will never make my dreams come true. But it no longer stops me.
I just keep writing, trusting that as long as I do, the rest will come.
Amy Sandas’ love of romance began one summer when she stumbled across one of her mother’s Barbara Cartland books. Her affinity for writing began with sappy pre-teen poems and led to a Bachelor’s degree with an emphasis on Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She lives with her husband and children near Milwaukee.