Although I took something of a circuitous path to committing myself to a professional writing career I think I always planned to be a writer. I certainly always WAS a writer, journaling avidly and reading voraciously. But I had a lot of ideas about what being a writer meant and at some point I got it into my head that I needed to publish my first book before the age of 23 so when I didn’t do that I felt like a failed writer for a little while. I have several published books but Crochet Saved My Life, which I published this year at age 32, is the first one that I feel like is really a core book in my career. It is the book I wanted to write at 23 but I couldn’t have written this book at 23. It had to be written now.
My Selves Coming Together
I am thinking about all of this in part because of a guest post I wrote recently for the Sibel Hodge blog. In this post I share:
“For many years I led parallel lives where the different passions and experiences that I had didn’t seem to intersect much. As I’ve gotten older and grown into myself more, things have begun to converge. I’ve become more fully the person I am meant to be. My new book, Crochet Saved My Life, represents the convergence of three parallel parts of my life: writing, crafting and depression”.
While this is something of a simplification of how it all happened, it’s true at its core. Writers are not just writers; they are experiencers of life and I had to experience things and come to an understanding of my experiences before I could really write honestly and from the heart.
Youth but Not Just Youth
A lot of what I’m talking about is just the whole process of growing up. Of course people can write books at age 23 or younger. In fact, I did write a whole manuscript at that age. It didn’t get published and I haven’t done anything with it but it was an important thing for me to actually complete it at the time. The writing isn’t great because I was a really undeveloped writer at the time but it isn’t terrible and I don’t think it would have been impossible for me to find an editor and an agent and all that had I approached it a little bit differently.
The thing is, I’m kind of glad that I didn’t get that book published. It was a very from-the-heart story and I still needed more life experience to keep developing my voice before it made sense for me to be putting a heartfelt book out there. I went on to get more experience, to write professionally in many mediums, to get some book writing under my belt that was a little bit less personal than that first manuscript was. And finally, when I was in my early thirties, I was ready to write Crochet Saved My Life.
That’s not so much about age as about being emotionally ready to make a certain type of leap in my professional life. I think that can come young for some people and much older for others. I think it depends on many factors, not the least of which is what you value as a writer. Although I didn’t realize it ten years ago, what I truly value as a writer is being able to tell highly personal, unique individual stories (including my own) and I simply couldn’t do that at an age when I didn’t have as much self-understanding as I’ve gained over time. I think the important thing here is to trust your own meandering, changing path as both an individual and a writer. Goal setting is great but it’s not as important as hearing your own heart.
Excited about More to Come
I am super proud of Crochet Saved My Life. It says what I wanted it to say. It’s on a topic I care about. It shares some of the personal story I wanted to share. It has connected me to amazing people and serves as what I hope is an inspiring resource for a craft community that I am very proud to be a part of. Is the writing good? I think it’s better than my 23 year old self could have done in large part because I’m more comfortable with my own writing voice than I was nine years ago. I think that someone other than me could probably polish it up a little bit but then it wouldn’t be my voice the way that my voice is right now. And right now that voice is very important to me.
Although I am super proud of this book, I do not see it as an achievement in the sense of a goal being met. It is one stepping stone in the river of a writing life. It’s a big, important and solid stone. But it is just one step. And maybe realizing that is a big part of the reason that I was able to write the book now. At 23, the publication of a book was the end goal and that’s not where my writing career was meant to end. 32 is not 23 because 32 is just a beginning in what I hope is going to be a long writing career where my own life experiences continue to develop, meld, change, re-develop and influence my writing.