Fifteen dusty old journals spilling out scraps of memories.
I dug them out of the battered yellow trunk in my parent’s basement and brought them into the light of day for the first time in almost 10 years.
I laughed as I showed them to my mom, “I loved journals so much that I would just buy new ones without filling up the ones I already had.” I leafed through a skinny hard-bound journal with a cat picture on the front, and saw my 4th grade handwriting on every single page. “Well, I guess I filled this one up.”
I set it down and picked up another one, this one a thick brown hard-cover that was actually a blank book sample from a company that specialized in book binding. “Kolbus Bookbinding,” it said on the cover. Not too inspiring of a title, but look at all the delicious paper bound up inside. There had to be at least 600 ivory-colored pages in that book.
“I know I didn’t finish this one. Look how thick it is.”
I turned to the last page and raised my eyebrows in surprise. “Oh, I guess I did.” I checked the dates of the first and last entries. September 20, 1997 to August 9, 2006. “Wow.” I marveled at my tenacity to come back to the same journal for 9 years.
I picked up a black soft-bound journal with colored pages. “Pretty sure I didn’t use this one all the way up.” Wrong again.
Apparently my love of journals extended beyond the pleasure of the physical book. Apparently I didn’t give myself enough credit for all the writing I used to do. As I flipped through journal after journal and saw the years of accumulated chicken scratch across the pages, I realized that I have always been a writer.
I was distracted by a thin envelope tucked inside one of my journals. The return address was Evelyn @ age 11. It was addressed to Evelyn @ 18. I opened it. One of the first questions my 11-year-old self asked was, “Have you become an author?”
Oh, honey. At 18? No, not even close.
Tucked in another journal, another envelope, another letter. Twenty-two-year-old Evelyn, asking her 30-year-old self, “Are you a published author yet?”
I squirmed uncomfortably; my answer—at 18, 30, and even up to that present moment, surrounded by my private writing—was still no.
My past selves were poking me, taunting me, reminding me, that I used to write all the time, and I had dreams of becoming an author. What have I been wasting my time on? Why haven’t I succeeded yet?
The evidence of my writing aspiration was literally piled up around me. As I looked at all my journals, I wondered what had happened. How had I spent the years of my life after October 22, 2010— the last entry of my most recent journal?
I scrambled to compile evidence to prove I’ve been writing over the past seven years, to make myself feel better.
- July 7, 2008—July 18, 2017. My first, to my most recent blog entry on this website. (593 published blog posts).
- September 8, 2009—October 10, 2017. The first, to the most recent entry on my computer journaling software (1678 entries)
- November, 2009—November, 2016. The first, to the most recent time I participated in NaNoWriMo (8 finished novel drafts)
I breathed a sigh of relief. It seemed there weren’t as many writing gaps as I had feared. In fact, my writing was more prolific than I had anticipated; there were virtually no gaps. My blogging, computer journaling, and novel writing had all started even before I stopped journaling on paper. Not only that, but my writing had moved from solely personal to public, and also contained a good mix of fiction along with my personal narrative non-fiction. I was surprisingly well on my way to becoming an actual published author.
Yet, for some reason, I had discounted all that work, to the point that I didn’t even consider it. Why?
Then it hit me like a million journals.
I have been pursuing writing-related activities without fully being aware of what I was doing.
I never said, “I’m doing this because I want to be an author, and this is a step in the right direction.”
Instead, I thought, “If I want to be an author someday, I should probably take some steps to make that happen. May as well [blog, journal, read, practice writing a draft novel], just in case I want to be an author. Then I’ll be more ready.”
I know exactly when I hopped on that train of thought. It was in fifth grade, when I read the book, “Hatchet,” by Gary Paulsen. In an interview with the author, someone asked him, “How do you become a successful author?” He replied, “Read. Read as much as you can. Read everything. Read all the time. There is no education more valuable to an author than to be a reader first.”
I took his advice to heart, thinking, “I don’t know if I want to actually be an author someday. Maybe I do and maybe I don’t, but for now I can read a lot, just in case that’s a direction I want to go.” So I read and read and read. I wrote, too, filling up my journals with writing galore.
My writing improved, but my thought process never changed. I continued to think, “If someday I want to be an author, I’ll be ready.”
But the proof is there, impossible to ignore. I do want to be an author. I write all the time, and participate in all kinds of writing-related activities. Who would do that if it wasn’t something they were interested in?
I even ramped it up in the past year, without giving it much thought beyond, “This sounds interesting, may as well give it a try.”
- In September 2016 I joined the Central Coast Writers Association, which has a monthly gathering and guest speaker on the topic of writing.
- In February 2017 I joined a writing critique group. I submitted 50 pages of my novel to the group in March and the full draft in July. I’ve started editing my novel based on the feedback.
- I attended a writing workshop on editing several months ago, and just signed up for another one next month on publishing and finding an agent.
- Last month at work, I started an open writing group, where writers at the Institute gather together and write with me for an hour twice a week.
I’ve also started to surround myself with other published authors and almost-authors, in anticipation of fulfilling a dream that wasn’t even fully conscious until like yesterday.
- My friend Allison Liddle just published a book, “Life Under Construction.”
- My dad Brian Helminen published a book, “How to Raise a Happy Family.”
- My grandma is about ready to publish her memoir.
- I’m helping a local author, Ajax Minor, market his trilogy, of which two books are published and available for sale, “Sun Valley Moon Mountains,” and “The Girl From Ipanema.”
- I just attended the Pebble Beach Authors & Ideas Festival and met a woman named Janis Cooke Newman who wrote the amazing book, “Mary A. Lincoln.”
- I have helped a local publisher with website and online marketing for her new published book, “Life in Pacific Grove,” where I have a short story and credit in the back.
Read that last bullet point again.
“…new published book…where I have a short story…”
I about fell over with a new realization. I wanted to declare it from the rooftops,
“I am an author!”
Oh my gosh! I AM a published author! I have a story in a book that has just been published! (Pages 219 & 459) People are paying for the book! You can buy it here on Amazon!
To say I’m floored right now is no exaggeration. I just fell out of my chair. I literally just realized, as I’m typing this, that I’m a published author already. “Life in Pacific Grove” was just launched, and I have a story in it. That’s what published author means.
Full Steam Ahead
I can’t ignore it anymore. I can’t push it to the back of my mind anymore. I can’t pretend anymore.
I want to pursue the path of an author. Publish more. Write in my spare time. Go full steam ahead with this novel I’ve been working on for three years.
Why Aren’t You Pursuing Your Dream?
Maybe you don’t realize that you already know what it is.
Imagine what could happen if you were conscious of your life’s dream and focused all your energy on it. What could you accomplish then?
I’m excited to see what happens. Aren’t you?
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