I grew up creating—writing stories, drawing and painting, making jewelry, constructing homemade furniture and accessories for my dolls, writing songs, singing, imagining. It was as natural to me as any other part of life.
Being an author was always something that deeply appealed to me. I had always felt deeply moved by stories, and had always been passionate about writing them. I believed I could write something "great" one day, if I just kept at it. And I wanted to. I wanted to be a published author.
I knew it was a long-shot to "make it" as an author. But I still hoped it was possible.
(I am one, now! But this is about the story of how I got here... so please bear with me for a moment! I promise this is going somewhere.)
It wasn't until I got older—around college—and started thinking about the practicality of what I majored in, what career path I would choose, etc., that I started feeling the pressure to limit the time I spent on seemingly "unproductive" creativity. I started to feel as though something needed to be actively producing income in order to be worthwhile.
(As a side note: How false that proves to be, as a mother! So many, many things I do as a mother have immense value—things I know are important for my family's health and well-being—but don't make a single dime!
And yet... It was still there. That ingrained pressure, from society or in my own mind, the embedded criteria for whether something was "worth doing." )
At the time, "making it as an author" was defined very narrowly in my mind. Indie publishing wasn't really a thing, yet, back then, other than a few authors I'd seen peddling their less-than-professional-looking books out of their car trunks or from folding tables with handwritten signs, to whomever they could convince to take one.
Today, there are so many ways to produce a professional-quality book and get it directly to readers without contracting under a big-name publisher, and I love being an indie author! But... back then... the prospects outside of traditional publishing seemed rather dismal, and getting a book contract with a major publisher felt like a one-in-a-million shot. In short, becoming an author felt like an unrealistic dream.
So, starting out in college, I had several things I was very passionate about: namely, singing, writing, and working with animals (ideally, as a performing trainer like at the theme park shows). I also had interest in plenty of other things, like art. But, given my belief that practicality required avoiding most of those things, I tried to major in something more sensible (Biology on the Pre-Veterinary track, to be specific).
But despite loving the idea of being a vet one day, after a few weeks in, I had to admit... I wasn't sure I was in the right degree path. I wasn't enjoying the courses at all.
Then, during my first semester, one of my Honors professors made a comment that if you're not enjoying the core studies for your degree path, you might be in the wrong field.
Well... I was.
I had already realized via volunteer work that the medical side of animal work wasn't what I wanted to do, and the Biology studies just weren't my thing. I loved animal behavior, but I didn't know how to get into that field. (I eventually did get into it, but not with my degree path. But that's a blog for another day!)
Thus began my first-year carousel of majors. In the course of one year of college, I think I changed my major three or four times—Biology, Psychology, I was even a dual-major in Art and Math for a semester! I considered majoring in becoming a Voice (Music) major, but got too scared that I didn't have enough experience when it came to submitting my repertoire.
I'm pretty sure my assigned guidance counselor thought I was crazy.
Eventually, I settled on English—with a concentration in Creative Writing.
Honestly, this was a natural path for someone like me, and one I would've chosen far sooner if I'd allowed myself to...but even then, I told myself it was "unrealistic" to expect to make a living as an author. I was already married by then, but I wasn't sure if we'd have kids or if we'd be able to afford for me to stay home with them when we did... so I planned to use my degree teach English, or editing, or something else "practical," and do writing "on the side."
It's important to note here:
Obviously (given the title of this blog), we did have kids. And I do stay home with them! I also do a lot of part-time work from home or where the kids can go with me, as well as homeschooling them, and I love this life we've built!
Over the last 15+ years, I've found I do enjoy teaching writing. I also enjoy editing, publication consulting, and various other sellable/contractable skills in the writing-related arenas. And I write and publish my fiction.
I do a little bit of it all. But... back then, I was defaulting to my Plan B without having even tried Plan A. I really didn't believe I could "be a writer" in a professional sense, as much as I hoped I'd be the exception.
I was already planning to sequester my fiction writing to a small corner of my life, where I'd convinced myself it belonged.
(I hadn't realized, yet, what that was costing me.)
So... college and my degree and all those plans panned out exactly as you might expect. I graduated. I wrote a few things. I submitted them places. I got rejections.
I gave up.
For about TEN YEARS during and after college, I stopped writing altogether—for the first time in my life.
This was due to a combination of personal struggles, busyness with work, emotional exhaustion, and just plain disillusionment.
I'd feel the urge to write, but could never seem to find the time and energy—or I'd get into it and feel that same old niggling doubt of, "What's the point? Nothing will come of it."
Then I became a mother, and... it just felt selfish to devote time to such things. I was already running on near-empty, barely getting enough sleep, constantly tired and drained. My family needed me. How could I take even more from those depleted resources to be alone and write?
There was validity to this, especially in the seasons of mothering newborns and toddlers. Except, I was expending energy trying to find ways to re-energize myself...all the wrong ways. Staying up too late. Scrolling social media while the kids slept. Things that, truly, sucked more energy away than they gave.
I don't think this season of creative barrenness (as I can now look back and define it) was a BAD thing. It was a necessary period of my life, as I focused on other things and devoted my attention elsewhere and grew in other areas.
But I firmly believe, on this side of things, that creative barrenness also wasn't where I was meant to stay.
The truth is, everything has a cost. Me spending time on my creative work does have a cost, and that cost comes out of finite and precious resources—things like my time, my energy, my ability to focus, my concentration, and my attention.
All things my family needs from me. And which other areas of my life also need.
My assumption, of course, was that writing would cost me.
I had no idea how much it would give.
So, after wrestling with the little nagging voice in the back of my head saying You should write for ten years—I'd had enough.
On a frustrated whim, I pulled out my old stories. (They were a mess.)
I tried rewriting them. (I felt impossibly lost.)
I started and stopped a few times, trying to figure out if this new creative endeavor really was worth doing.
Something told me to keep going.
I got writing-craft books from the library or as e-books and started trying to figure out how to make my writing better. (It was a long process and felt, at first, like trying to grind a bunch of rusted-stuck gears in my brain to life again.)
I did the BIG, SCARY thing of starting a blog... then a Wattpad account... then a KDP account... and started learning, piece by piece, the world of indie publishing and how to get my work to readers.
I joined online forums and sought out other writers to network with (especially those doing it well, critique partners and mentors from whom I could learn--and I found some great ones!).
And gradually, methodically, I learned. I grew. I started writing again.
And I came back to life.
Squashing a vital part of me, it turns out, was taking far more energy than it was saving.
I was hobbling my own internal processes—how I filter and process emotions and thoughts, how I maintain and multiply energy, how I interpret and interact with myself and others and the world—and I never even realized it. I was just trying to survive...by squashing a huge part of how I was designed to function.
Well. That worked about as well as you might expect! But it took me a long time to see it.
My husband and kids (who are, by the way, the BIGGEST supporters of my writing) are still my priority. I still have other responsibilities (lots of them!).
But I find ways to make time for writing, for three main reasons:
I now deeply believe it is a calling, on some level, a drive ingrained in me that I was meant to use, and
I now know I am so much better emotionally, mentally, spiritually, energetically—on every level—when I'm writing at least something on a semi-regular basis.
Now that I know those first two things, I want to be a positive example in both of those areas for my kids, as well.
Now, I pray about my writing, and often before each writing session, asking God to show me how to use this gift to serve Him better and to bless others. I see it as a way of using my talents to glorify Him, and to keep myself in a healthier place, which in turn also serves my family.
I talk to my kids about why I write. I want them to know I'm striving to use my gifts for God's glory and to put good into the world, and also that it's one of my ways of processing life and staying emotionally healthy. I try to watch for their natural gifts, the things they naturally gravitate toward, and help them hone and shape their own talents and discover their own healthy ways of processing complex emotions and relating to the world.
I don't write every day. My family's needs do come first. I want them to. As the quote attributed to C.S. Lewis goes, "Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work." I firmly believe that. And my marriage is also a priority. I cannot just bury myself in my stories, even when I might desire to.
And, if I'm honest, finding the right balance for that takes constant, intentional effort. (Perhaps I'll write another blog on how I set those boundaries and maintain that balance, if people are interested!)
But I do something writing-related almost every day, even if it's small. And I always have an active project in the works. Somehow, that makes all the difference. Just knowing it's there, and having something to purposefully ponder and that's waiting there for me to work on when I do find time.
It's hard to express how vital I now know my writing is for my overall functioning.
If you know the concept of energy pennies, just imagine a whole shower of pennies cascading down on me in a heap, once I started writing regularly and putting my work out there to readers. After so long feeling drained, the difference was so significant I was practically Scrooge McDuck, just swimming in my newfound mountain of energy pennies.
If you're not familiar with energy pennies, let me just say this: I am more me again than I've been in years, and every single part of my life is impacted by it.
Here's the thing:
Creatives need to create.
It's part of how we work, and vital for our mental health.
It's how our brains function and interact with the world.
You could debate that every person is creative on some level. That is probably true. But there are certain people—and you can usually see it very young—for whom creative outlets like art, writing, music, etc., are as natural and essential as breathing.
As a kid, when I felt something intensely—fear, joy, anger, frustration, sorrow—I felt the overwhelming need to turn it into something. I painted, I sculpted, I wrote stories or poems, I played music, I sang songs.
Transforming my experiences and emotions into some creative outlet was how I processed life. It was an essential part of how I functioned.
And in adulthood, I had all but shut that part down.
Looking back, I've also noticed another interesting thing:
In the years when I was NOT creating, I found myself feeling a constant need to "change" things. It showed as a general restlessness, an urge to change up something major in my life—my job situation, redecorating or repainting my home, or even via shopping (new clothes, new home decor items, etc.). I had a tiny budget, so I wasn't spending a lot—but I was prone to buy things that were cool and inexpensive but that we didn't really NEED, because somehow, it channeled that restlessness.
Eventually, I noticed that the restless energy that drove me to aimlessly browse online sales, window-shop at malls, hit up sales at stores, etc., went away (or at least was greatly lessened) when I was actively pursuing creative outlets.
It's like I needed the newness, or to feel like I was bringing something new and beneficial into my home, and in the absence of creative outlets, I was automatically trying to find other ways to fill that void.
I never would have connected the two, except that when I did return to my creative outlets, I realized that "itch" for shopping had all but vanished. (I am still a sucker for buying books and educational materials for my kids! Ha. But that comes from a different motivation.)
I'm not saying any of those things are bad. Taking care of your home is good stewardship, and redecorating your home, if you can afford it, can be a great thing and can make your home a more enjoyable refuge for your family and for guests. Treating yourself to new clothing can be a great boost! Upgrading your home items to more useful or higher quality items can be a good thing, too, if you have the means to do so.
But... if you're doing it from a place of unfulfilled restlessness and you're getting hit with compulsive bouts of I just can't stand those white walls a single day longer; I must paint them immediately! like I was, then it might help to stop and ask WHY.
It might be that your brain is trying to tell you it needs a regular, creative outlet.
Maybe not!—everybody is different—but I think it's at least worth asking.
If any of this resonates with you, here are a few things I'd suggest asking yourself:
1) What did I do, joyfully and without self-judgment, as a child when I felt inspired?
Assuming it was a healthy outlet (nothing harmful to self or others), this could be a really good sign of what would be most beneficial to pick back up again. You can also ask what activities you naturally turned to as an outlet when you needed to process big emotions. These are all good indicators of what creative outlets might be most helpful or fulfilling for you to pursue as an adult.
2) Is there some way I can fit that creative outlet into my day—even if just for a few minutes—on a regular basis, to see if it makes a difference?
Be honest about your schedule and how you use your time. Could you sacrifice thirty minutes of sleep and get up early (or stay up late) to give your chosen creative outlet a try? Could you forego some social media scrolling time or other passive activity and replace it with creative time instead? Or could you arrange for one Saturday morning a month to go and do the thing, if it can't be done at home?
If it's an activity that requires supplies or access to other resources, could you set aside a few dollars a week or a month to save toward restarting this activity? Or could you cut back somewhere else and readjust your monthly budget slightly to allow for the expense?
For most people, the answer will be yes—somewhere. It's just about making the choice and intentionally protecting that time and those resources.
And if the answer is no for you... can you ask for help? Someone to watch the kids for a couple hours once or twice a month? A friend to go in on costs with you so you can afford the painting supplies or the class fees or whatever? Make sure if you're saying no here, it's a real no, not a no born from fear of trying. (Believe me, I've been there!) And if it is no... maybe it's actually just a not now. That doesn't mean you can't set it as a goal to work toward for later, when you're in a different season.
3) What do I want my goal to be?
Some creatives are energized by personal creation, and have no desire to share their work with others. That's totally fine! But others will feel the need to share their work with other people, and that's okay, too. Your goals will be your goals, but I do believe it helps to have them.
Your goals don't have to be the same as mine, but it will help to know what they are—not only so you know what to pursue, but also so you know what not to pursue and which advice or suggestions you can safely ignore. (Not all advice is good advice for you, even if it works for someone else.)
4) Do I want a creative community or do I want to do this alone?
If you're a sharer (like me), then you'll want to also think about ways you can connect with others once you do have work to share. You probably won't be sharing immediately, but it can be very energizing to know you have a plan in place for when the time comes. Is improving your craft important to you? You may want to look into taking classes or workshops, online or in person, or connecting with other creatives in your chosen field to network with and learn from. Is simply creating without any judgment what you need? Then you may want to forego any group settings, at first, and check out books or watch YouTube videos for inspiration.
So, here I am—an author.
The thing child-me always hoped I could be.
I've now been actively writing and indie-publishing and selling my work (to real, actual readers!) for more than seven years. And I love it.
As it turns out, college-me was wrong. I can make income as an author.
I decided, after getting back into writing, to treat it professionally—like a business. It's not just a hobby to me, but I also don't devote full-time effort to it, because first and foremost, I'm a mom homeschooling four kids... and that's a full-time job all on its own!
I know there will shifts in seasons. There will be ebbs and flows. There will be (and have been!) periods where I scale back on how much time I spend writing, and days or even weeks at a time that I don't write at all, because I'm exhausted or tapped out or handling other things. Periods where writing feels like more of a drain than a help. Periods where I need to shift my deadlines, scale back, and focus on my physical health, my family, and other things.
Those breaks are natural and necessary, but I always come back to writing, eventually—when I'm able. And it always feels like a relief, when I do.
I don't think I'll ever fully stop writing again. It's too ingrained, now, in how I interact with the world. (Or perhaps it always was.)
I don't make a full-time income from my writing, but lots of indies do. It is possible. And I do make a small side income, when I devote my efforts to the right opportunities. And in addition to my fiction income, I've now developed a whole host of related skills I also make income from and which I take on as extra work to whatever extent I choose to and am able (things like editing, formatting, publication consulting, copywriting, and writing tutoring, just to name a few).
More importantly, though, a piece of me I'd crushed and buried has burst to life again.
I'm more fully me, again, determinedly pursuing the person I was created to be and the talents I was given, and striving to find new ways to glorify God with them and to bring more beauty and goodness into this world.
Even if I'd never made a single penny of income from my writing, that alone would have made it worth doing.