Years ago, when I was a teacher, I worked hard and put my heart into writing lesson plans and trying to come up with activities and assignments that would be interesting and engaging for my students. I really liked being a teacher.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an author. I loved writing. I loved collecting fancy journals and notebooks and filling them up with ideas and stories. When I first heard about National Novel Writing Month in 2007 or 2008, I gave it a go – I wrote 50,000 words in 30 days. I didn’t finish the story, but I “won” NaNoWriMo that year.
It was a romance novel, a more grown-up version of a short story I’d written in a high school creative writing class. (Well, the assignment was to write a short story. When I turned in my 30 pages, I explained to my teacher [shout out to Mr. McLean!] that it was really the first chapter of a novel that I was going to get published someday.)
I put it off for the longest time because I was so pissed at the thought of all that work going down the drain. (Lesson learned: Always back up your work. Then back it up again somewhere else.)
I eventually decided to give it a go and rewrite the story so that I could finally finish it. I loved the idea of writing romance novels because I could fantasize… I could embellish…
I wrote in the evenings after school, on weekends, and all throughout the summer. When I finished my first book, I sent it off to one literary agent after another. I was happy when I got requests to read the whole thing. I was even happy when I got rejected, just because I knew someone was actually reading my work. I was happy just knowing that I had accomplished a goal of mine and was working on the next step to make that dream a reality.
But all of the research I was doing to find the right literary agent was taking up a lot of time, and I wanted to write a second book. So I shelved the first one and started writing a second book.
For a long time, self-publishing (or vanity publishing) was kind of looked down upon. If you were self-publishing, it must be because no literary agent was going to pick you up.
I just looked at it as a way to get my books into the hands (onto the Kindles) of as many readers as possible. I’d spent two years planning and writing two books that I was pretty proud of. So I read up on how to do it and found out that it was pretty easy. I made an awful book cover and put my first book up on Amazon and told everybody about it. I realized I could do the same thing with Barnes & Noble, too. Naturally, the first people who bought it were family and friends. Still, a sale was a sale and people were reading what I wrote.
Someone not related to me. Someone saw my book, bought it, read it, and left a review. I couldn’t believe it. I finally felt like I’d made it. People (well, at the time, a person) were actually buying my book.
So I placed the second book on Amazon.
And eventually, a dozen books turned into a hundred. A hundred books turned into a thousand. I was actually SELLING BOOKS. To strangers. To hundreds and thousands of strangers. Not only was I proud and elated – I couldn’t freaking believe it!
I kept going. In 2012, I wrote a third book. All while I was still teaching as my day job.
After my son was born in 2015, at the urging of my husband, I quit teaching and stayed home to work on writing full time. A dream come true!
I picked up remote freelance writing gigs wherever I could – national newspapers, clickbait-y blogs, parenting websites… and I wrote book number four. I started a family travel blog. I wrote some articles for our local newspaper. I decided to go back to school to get my Master’s in creative writing and literature. I wrote book number five. I just finished book number six.
In the past few years, I have been all over the place with my writing. For me, writing is so much fun. But if I can make a career out of it, too? That’s amazing!
Still, I have no idea what comes next. I don’t know where I go from here. And that makes me incredibly happy.
Will I land a literary agent? Will I self-publish my last two books? What am I going to do for my thesis next year? And then what do I do when that’s done? Do I have another book in me? Do I want to look for a career in journalism or content writing? Do I want to try to freelance full time or do I want to find a writing job within a company or organization?
I might not be making bank, and I know that you have to pay the bills, put gas in the car, and go to the grocery store, but my point is: life is short.
Whether it’s a hobby, your side hustle, or your full-time dream job, if you can make it happen, DO IT! It might be scary and it might sound crazy, but it’s better to give it a shot now then look back in 20 years and say, “I wonder what would have happened if…”
So do what makes you happy. Write that book. Take that class. Start that business. You’ll be so glad you did.
Jessica Goodwin lives near Washington, DC with her husband, son, and their two cats. She’s written four novels and her work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Baby Gaga, Chocolate & Chaos, Tribe Magazine, Mamalode, and in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Sleep when the baby sleeps? Nope, she’s writing. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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