People can have a major role in how you turn out. They may do this actively, or passively. They may never even know that you exist or the impact that they’ve had on your life. But they mold us. There are those who give us hope, inspiration, and insights that we never would have seen otherwise. They might be role models, significant others, parents, teachers, any one that had a hand in developing you. Here are some of the ones that shaped me into the writer that I am today, and the one that I hope to be tomorrow.
I grew up reading a continual string of Dean Koontz. I remember, one time, when I was a teen, I wrote to him, and he actually wrote me back. I still have that short note in my treasure chest.
I remember the first story that I’ve ever wrote. It was about a magical, rainbow cheetah that could have anything she wanted by wishing. My teacher didn’t care much for it. She did like my origin story about why turtles are how they are. (In case you were interested, they started out rainbow, too. But they were jerks, and got banished to the desert, where they only had dead leaves and green things to eat. They learned their lesson and returned home quiet, slow, and brown and green). But I kept going with the writing. I won various contests throughout my k-12 career.
When I was in high school, I would carry journals around with me and write stories, even a whole book once, in them. As an adult, I wrote another novel. Just for fun. It was awful. But I had no real ambitions of publishing it. It was just something that I liked to do. Maybe there was something in the fact that my mom had been an English major in college, and I didn’t want to follow in her footsteps. That, or living in the Midwest, art isn’t considered a career. I’ve always had a near even interest in art and science. But it was a culture of, “oh, you’re going to school for (insert anything even remotely artsy). That’s nice. But, what’s your back-up?” And I ended up with a BA in Psychology. Yeah, should have had a back-up for that. Nothing is guaranteed. Not even that you’ll like the major you started out with by the end of it. Or jobs in this economy.
For a long time, I didn’t think that writing was something that you really put your all into. I thought that it was just a hobby. And if you made it, then it could be a career. I was incredibly ignorant of everything that goes into it. But then my boyfriend came along. He had a Master’s in Engineering, and was working on a PhD. But he put all of that aside to give writing a real push. He got a job that would pay the bills and was easy enough to allow his mind to be free. He didn’t see writing as a hobby. It was a job, whether you were getting paid for it or not. He had this passion that I had never seen before. That I had never let grow inside of myself. He had a story, a plan, and the confidence to go after it. He was an invaluable inspiration to me. Without that, I don’t think I ever would have been able to take my own writing seriously. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
We spent a good amount of the beginning of our relationship going out to coffee shops and writing. Over two years later, we still do that some. Right now, at this very moment, we are both working on our writing. It’s a bit late, so we’re doing this at home. But there’s still coffee. (It’s 12:37am, but I’m counting this as still Monday). Writing, the craft of it, our specific stories, things we want to write in the future, and our writing careers are often the topics of discussion. Writing can be a solitary practice. It’s nice to have a partner in it, even if what we work on never touches. (He does edit my stuff though. Bonus.)
He also reintroduced me to books. After a decade of reading only Dean Koontz, I had grown bored. I thought I wouldn’t like anyone else’s writing. On a drive from LA to St. Louis for Christmas, we got a book on tape. It was Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz. I wasn’t ready to branch out just yet. But then I fell in love with books on tape! I gained a serious appetite.
The first book that I found, on my own, without any prompting from anyone (other than audible), I found WOOL Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey. I began to listen to it and became addicted. It was so different from anything I had read. There were twists and turns, and many unexpected things. It was only later that I found out that it was originally five stories, which explained a lot. For probably the second time in two years, I was hanging out in the hot tub at my building. Some guy was there, I think he was a regular extra on Glee, and we started talking about writing. I mentioned that I was reading Wool. He started talking about the author. I didn’t actually know anything about Hugh Howey at the time. But the things this guy said made me want to know more.
I looked him up. And I was addicted all over again. The book had come out just a year before. It was gaining popularity. It was self-published. I was amazed. I found his blog. I scrolled through the archives. I was dumbfounded to read his story. To look through his blog as he went from where I was to a place of success. There were many things that I could relate to. Talk about being given hope. Even if he never did all the other things he’d done, just for him to have the blog from pre-Wool to post was super inspirational. I think that’s why I started this blog.
From reading the things he’s written on the subject, whether they were in passing or intended to be profound, he taught me a lot. I’ve learned about self-promotion. About not giving up. I found that there are authors who write at the same crazy speed that I do. Although, he is probably more structured. Doubt he sleeps til 1.
And it goes further than that. He’s changing the publishing industry. He’s not leading an all-out assault on traditional publishing. But he is shedding light on its practices. Be it non-compete clauses, or the author earnings report, he’s taken the publishing world by storm and has forced the world to realize that the atmosphere is changing. He’s empowered a generation of writers. He convinced me to self-publish and to try my hand at serial fiction. We’ll see how that works out when it’s done.
In short, he’s someone that I don’t know, who doesn’t know me, but has had a major impact in my writing career. I’ve “spoken” to him twice. Once on Facebook I asked him a question about the report. I was terrified, and was afraid he’d think I was dumb. He answered indiscriminately. I was so excited that he had answered me. Try to remember, I suffer from social anxiety, so that’s my excuse. The second time was on Twitter. I asked when he was coming to LA. He said in August. I really hope that I get the opportunity to meet him.
To Hugh Howey, and all the other inspirations of my career, I’d like to say a great big Thank You! You deserve more than a mention. You deserve an award. You’ve changed me in many ways, whether you know it or not.