Several years ago I set five goals for my writing: write, polish, learn, attend, and send.
I’m a prolific writer so the first goal wasn’t a problem. I’ve always got a pen and paper—or laptop—in my hands. The second goal, polish, was a challenge. I’m a perfectionist and felt my work was never at its best. With the help of other writers, however, I learned that polishing a story, article, or novel is just that—polishing. Polish, by definition means to buff up. When I spray furniture polish onto my piano, it doesn’t automatically shine. There is, in fact, a dull residue which only after lots of elbow grease—buffing up—begins to yield results.
I began to understand that though my writing starts out needing lots of work to make it shine that doesn’t mean I am doomed to fail. It only means I need to work until I get the results I want—just like polishing the piano.
For me that was a great realization—a blessing.
Since fifth grade, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I just didn’t know it was okay to work at making that dream come true. When I was young I wrote with enthusiasm, then I followed my mother around reading my work. Her response was constantly harsh and to the point: “Lori, writing is not your forte.” She didn’t believe I could become what I dreamed of being, and she feared I’d embarrass myself; her fears became mine.
It took a long time for me to start believing in myself.
Knowing it was alright if my words didn’t shine the first time I wrote them, or when I rewrote them the second time, or even the third, I came to the realization that I could help myself by striving to learn more about writing in general. I began to read more, books on writing and books in the genres I wanted to pursue, thus helping myself meet my third goal. Attend, fourth on the list, involved writing classes and being part of critique groups. I met lots of other writers and would be writers who shared dreams and goals similar to mine.
I become conscious that early on in my life I’d been lead to believe that writing—being a writer—was something you either could or could not do, like walking or talking. When I understood that (just like playing the piano with any degree of proficiency) becoming a writer takes time, effort, and practice I was able to let go of old fears and enjoy the process of becoming.
The last item on my list, send, became easier as well. I analyzed, versus agonized over, rejection letters and resumed polishing before I again sent my work out. In time my efforts paid off. I found many opportunities and enjoyed writing for the newspapers and magazines that asked for my work; it felt good to have my articles, short stories and essays—my own words and feelings—appear in print.
But there was something more, something I dreamed of for a long time: I wanted to write children’s books and novels.
Gathering courage amidst continued opposition, both interior and exterior, I set out once more with my five writing goals. I still have a long road to travel but I enjoy being on that road, grateful to know it's okay to do more than just sit by the wayside and wish.