Being A Published Author Wasn’t Always My Dream Job

I Have a Confession

I haven’t always dreamed of being a published author.  Nor have I spent my childhood/teens/college years diligently writing stories with the hopes that others would read my work.  In fact, I spent most of my life keeping anything I wrote private.

I know I’m not alone in my experience.  But, what bothers me is that I was embarrassed about it.  Yes, I was actually embarrassed that I haven’t always wanted to be an author.  So much so, that at one point, I desperately scoured my memory banks to find a scrap of evidence that yes, indeed, I wanted to be an author.  I wanted to stand with those authors who always knew that they wanted to write, and couldn’t imagine being anything else.  The authors who claim that writing for them was like breathing.  I wanted to be able to say that, and if I’m honest with myself, I still want to be able to say that.  To claim that.  Of course, if I do, it would be a lie.

What bugged me more than being embarrassed by something so silly, is realizing why I was so embarrassed.  I’d built up authors beyond being merely role models, that their life stories and beliefs became truth to me.  Became The Way.  And, if I diverged from The Way, then, by my actions, I have excommunicated myself from the society of authors, and I didn’t have the right to pursue being a full-time novelist.

A Side Story

Last week, I was able to spend time with my side of the family.  Because, my immediate family is split between east and west coasts, I only see them for one week, twice a year, and we spend those weeks that we’re together sharing stories about our lives thus far, updating each other on any news.  (This is nothing new.  Growing up, we all often shared stories while eating breakfast on Saturday mornings.)  We’re a talkative bunch, and can be quite dramatic in our renditions, so it takes a good week for us to regale the other branches of the family on our happenings.

Anyway, whenever we’re together, it doesn’t matter that we’ve already heard about each other’s stories through some other means. (For example, my older brother might have called my sister who could have Facebooked me about something my younger brother allegedly did in college that my parents may not know about.  Or, an elderly aunt may have accidentally emailed my sister instead of the Internet scammer who was the intended recipient of said email, and who may have duped her out of money. Again.)  But, until we all get together, we pretend not to know what we all really know anyway, and talk in obtuse pronouns and pronounced facial expressions until the Big Reveal.

What’s important in our ritual story telling over breakfast is sharing the information RIGHT THERE and hearing it from either the source, or from a witness’s first-hand perspective.  The conflict is always more heated, the emotions, more intense, in these real life re-enactments.  (In case you’re wondering, my favorite perspective is from my momdad, seen as one unit because they can’t seem to take turns telling a story, nor can they stop editorializing, so they’re like a two-headed, story-telling juggernaut.)

My Point?

Though I may not have written epic fantasies when I was six years old, I grew up surrounded by stories.  My family breakfasts were proving grounds for telling the best stories, especially since we lived the stories that we told.  It really wasn’t a matter of us telling the truth or not, more like the truth abounded in the conviction that what we told actually happened.  That we believed what we said.  In the telling, our “characters” refused to be flat and lifeless.  My parents can make buying groceries a more interesting story than hearing about a multiple car pileup on the news.  They can’t help but be enigmatically complex and full of conflict.  When my family orders dinner or pays the bill, drama surely follows.

I realize now that I was silly to feel like I had to legitimize my claim for wanting to be a published author.  I’m grateful that I’ve been able to experience stories.  That I was born to a family of storytellers.  Though I didn’t necessarily scribble stories about princes and knights or ghost tale massacres, I told the stories that have surrounded me my whole life (some journals may have been filled with angsty-teen, anti-parent rants.)  Besides, we all have to follow our own writerly path.

So, I’ll let other writers talk about how they’ve been writing stories before they can walk, and how writing to them is like breathing.  For me, I can embrace my heritage of story telling.  If it weren’t for my family, and our stories, then I wouldn’t have become such a devourer of tales.  Creating more stories, albeit in written form, is just an extension of that.

Stories are my life, and that is not only a truth that I can claim; it’s one that I’ve lived.

SO TELL ME: What did YOU want to be when you grew up?

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7 thoughts on “Being A Published Author Wasn’t Always My Dream Job

  1. stickynotestories says:

    I only recently (within the past couple years) decided that I want to be a full-time writer. Growing up I wanted to be a singer, and then a marine biologist, and most recently a geneticist (actually, I still want to be a geneticist, if only it didn’t require all that school that would take me away from writing :P). In college I wrote for fun. In the first few years after college I decided I wanted to publish a few books and call it good. Only now I keep thinking of new books to write, and the whole being a scientist thing isn’t doing it for me anymore.

    So don’t worry! We all have different paths bringing us to this point. You aren’t less of a writer because you grew up wanting to do something else (actually, I feel kind of bad for the people who have always wanted to be a writer – they haven’t done anything else that they might have really enjoyed).

    • Liza Kane says:

      Thank you for saying so!
      I always felt that writing is living, and I think I appreciate willingly giving my “free time” to writing when not at my pay the bills job. I just don’t know why I had a hang up about it, but at least I can move on 😉
      I’m happy that you’re in my Crusader group! This will be a fabulous crusade!

  2. Ollin says:

    Interesting post, Liza! You know I have a similar story. In that I was always seen as an actor by everyone else, and it USED to be my dream to be a famous actor. That dream changed and sometimes I feel like a fraud because I haven’t always DREAMED of being a published author.

    But the truth is, I ALWAYS wrote stories–on paper, in my head, etc. I never stopped. It was always a part of me and that tells me that I was always a writer.

    But it’s an interesting thing about human nature, we really have nothing to be embarrassed about!

    • Liza Kane says:

      “But the truth is, I ALWAYS wrote stories–on paper, in my head, etc. I never stopped. It was always a part of me and that tells me that I was always a writer. ”

      Yes yes yes! Thank you for the validation! I seriously still don’t know why I felt like a fraud but it’s nice to know that I’m not alone nor should I feel weird that I’m choosing to pursue that dream now.

      Thank you for sharing!

  3. Heather Simone says:

    Great post!

    Well, I always knew I wanted to do something different, but never could put my finger on it. I mean growing up how many published authors did you really know? I didn’t know a single one. I had a chance in the sixth grade to write and illustrate a story in English class. My teacher had all of our stories bound for us and I still to this day have mine. It wasn’t until recently, though that I realized I’ve been writing and telling stories for a long time. I used to keep journals, lots of them, when I was in high school and after.

    In my twenties I started dong genealogy and collected stories of my ancestors and other family members. Then I went to college and studied history. Where, again, I collected other stories that were real.

    When I graduated two years ago I started focusing more on writing fictional young adult novels out of the blue and had the same questions for myself. What right do I have to be a published author? I never pursued it until after graduating with a history degree and teaching certificates.

    But, you’re right, we’ve been practicing and story telling for longer than we realized. We don’t need to have been pursuing publication since birth to deserve it now.

    • Liza Kane says:

      Thank you so much for sharing! We love stories. That should be enough (and it is!). I hate that my silly analytical brain needed validation that I can be an author, that I can choose to pursue publication for a career, that I AM a writer. It’s rare for any other industry to have that kind of mindset of “belonging” (I clock in for work, and am in dress code. That’s all the validation any of my customers need for my paythebills job that I am, in fact, a salesperson there. Well, that and the fact that my team looks to me for direction and call me their manager. That may have something to do with it as well).

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