Friday, May 27, 2016

The Journey

A popular post from July 2011

By Josi S. Kilpack

Attend a writer's conference or talk to another writer and, inevitably, you'll get to hear about that writer's journey. How they started. What their initial goals were. The failures and the successes.

For a long time, I would hear another writer talk about their successful signing and I would envy that--mine never felt like they were that great. I'd hear them talk about their two dozen rejections and I would find myself envying that too--I hadn't put myself out there enough to get rejected. I would covet this writer's schedule, this writer's life long goals, and wish I had a great story to tell too. For many years I directed attention away from how I got started or how I moved forward because it just felt ... lame compared to the other stories I'd heard.

Of course I did have a story all my own, but I had pretty much ignored it because everyone else's story sounded so much better. I hadn't dreamed of being a writer since I was young. I didn't get a college degree. I didn't get rejected by half a dozen houses before I was accepted, therefore fully appreciating the thrill of victory. Instead, I hated to read as a child. I finished a year of college and was glad to leave it behind me when I got married and became a mom/aunt to my husband's niece. My first book was written almost on a whim and it was eventually published. What a lousy to story to tell. Where were the inspiring moments? Where were the turning points?

I wish I could better remember the moment that my perspective changed (it would be a wonderful chapter in my story if I could) but I don't remember exactly how it happened. I do remember realizing during a presentation to one of my kid's classes that being a reluctant reader as a child could be inspiring to someone else who also struggled with the same thing. I realized that not having a college degree could be an example of both how I could have better prepared, but also that just because I didn't have that degree, I could still write. I then looked back and realized my mom's love of reading and my 7th grade English teacher's stupid book report worksheets made a significant impact on my writing, even though none of us realized it at the time. And as I started identifying these landmarks in my past, I started to see the journey I didn't know I had had been on unfolding behind me.

I had a 3rd grade teacher who gave us unlimited extra credit if we'd write a one page story about a picture from her box--that made an impact. My dad isn't a die hard reader, but is a passionate artist and influenced my perspective of how to pursue one's talents--impact. A college professor told me I was really good with words--impact again. That I expected nothing great from myself and yet I did something that amazed myself--impact on steroids!

All these details have come into sharper focus as I've kept moving forward and I can now look back on the journey I've taken and marvel at the view. I can take pride in MY story and MY journey, while better appreciating everyone else's. I find that I envy less the successes and sympathize better with the hardships of other writers. I find that I want to be someone who helps other people on their journey, rather than being the defeatist who discourages their goals. I find myself excited as I watch other people's journey's unfold and ache to convince them that the set backs they are facing are a necessary part of their development. Push through it, keep going, the vistas are worth it, I swear.

Wherever you are in your journey, and despite whatever road block seems to be in your way, think of it as a great part of the story you'll eventually tell. A sunset is made all the more breathtaking by the clouds lit up with color. A desert landscape is made beautiful by the patterns the wind draws in its sand. The perspective that hardship creates necessary texture will not save you the frustration and discouragement, but, when kept in your pocket and rubbed for good luck now and again, it can give you the reminder that by being a writer, you've taken on a world that you do not have whole control over. Writing gives you opportunities that are subjective to the moods and grooves of other people. It will not be easy. It is not easy for anyone, but that lack of ease is why it's rewarding when you accomplish what you set out to do. Double knot your shoes and pack that rain parka everyone thinks is a waste of space--the path is not paved that you embark on and the umbrellas are not free--but one day you'll look behind you and marvel at the distance you've come. You'll point to that mountain and say "That one nearly killed me," and that river "I didn't know how I'd ever get across it," and take well earned pride in your accomplishments. In the process, those people still on the far side of that mountain will take your journey as inspiration for their own.

If you need help seeing how far you've come:

  • Identify two people who have no idea they had an impact on your writing.
  • Recall a time when you couldn't imagine ever moving forward in your writing, why did you?
  • Look for a specific goal you set in the past and acknowledge your achievement of it.
  • Write these things down so you never forget the journey you've taken.

*The image I used on this post is actually linked to a poem called "The Journey" by Mary Oliver. It was very fitting for this post so if you'd like to take a look, follow this link

*Also, don't forget out live critiquing event on August 13th in American Fork. There are only a few spots left.


Scott Bryan, Annabelle's scribe said...

Very good article! I liked it a great deal. Thank you.

Precision Editing Group said...

Josi, I've always been inspired by your writing journey. I'm glad you felt that it's worthy to share :)

Luisa Perkins said...

Thanks, Josi. I needed a pep talk today. Sometimes my journey doesn't feel very worth it, so I appreciate your perspective.

Annette said...

Beautiful post. As someone who's watched a good chunk of your journey, I can say it's definitely inspiring, and I'm so glad you kept walking--and still are.

Julie Wright said...

Do you know what I love anout this? It reminds me of all the times I've called you whining because I didn't think I could take another step on the writing journey and you would always answer, "Just think how great this will sound when your telling your story to other writers."
And you know you're someone who's made writing possible for me. That sundial necklace is sometimes worn as a talisman against my own negativity.
Your journey is inspiring. You are awesome. Twenty shades. Absolutely.

andreaheitzman said...

Josi, I agree with Luisa. I need a pep talk. I know there is a writer inside me. Even though, like you, I did not really have any role models, but I felt the need to write a story about my life growing up and growing older. I was naive. I thought I found a publisher. Yeah, I did. They wanted upfront money. I mistakenly assumed my book would be edited. It was not. The book was published. I read it. OMG! It had so many errors. I want to hid my head in the sand. I want to rewrite the story under a new title and expand the conflicts. I have been on the internet everyday, reading and reading about editors and publishers. I am so scared. After reading your blog; I will not give up.