“Nothing Found.” That’s the title the blog assigns before you’ve posted anything, before you’ve figured out what you want to say or what you have worth saying. For thirty-odd years, that might as well have been the title assigned to my writing career. I’d been writing since I was a child, but I’d never done anything more with that writing than share it with my completely biased mother who, of course, continues to this day to assure me of my brilliance, meaning I risked absolutely nothing with my writing or in the sharing of it. When I first met my husband, though, things began to change. I was working on my Masters in English Lit at the University of Southern Mississippi, and he was a doctoral student there at the Center for Writers, studying under the truly brilliant brothers, Rick and Steve Barthelme. He was the first writer with whom I developed a close relationship, he was a gifted writer himself, he surprised me in countless ways, he was dark and moody and brooding and sensitive and kind in that way so many women imagine authors are, and he was very easy on the eyes. How could I not fall in love? But show him my writing? Hell no. Are you freaking crazy?
Until one day, I did. And listening to his completely accurate and unbiased criticism of the piece was excruciating. Embarrassing. My ego, which has always been a bit too healthy, hid, crying quietly in the darkest corners of my soul (which was probably a very good thing considering I’m still the kind of writer who writes sentences like that from time to time). And his commentary left me thinking later, “Dear God, did I really write that shit? What in the hell possessed me to write that shit?” But. There’s always a “but” with me. But just as I recognized his criticism as completely accurate, I recognized his praise as accurate, too. For the first time in my life, I’d shared my writing with someone who was actually qualified to talk to me about it, qualified to help me find ways to make it better and show me the ways it was already great. For the first time, I’d actually risked something, and there was no going back.
Not long after we were married, I joined the Center for Writers, as well, and started risking even more. From the beginning, I aspired to write romance, and though the faculty was incredibly supportive, my fellow grad students did not always have the same appreciation for the effort and talent required of writing genre fiction. A few of them viewed it in much the same light as great artists would view paint-by-numbers, and it made staying true to my writing quite the challenge. I risked my confidence, my vision as a writer every time I watched one of my beloved stories be ripped apart in workshop, and that ego was torn down and rebuilt time and again. Never did I doubt that it was worth it.
I recently started kickboxing. If you know me personally, you know this is nothing short of miraculous, given my lifelong love of sloth. I can still sleep for ten hours on Saturday and need a nap by noon. Now, my muscles have never hurt more, and I have never felt stronger. I felt the same way every time I left a writer’s workshop, and every story was stronger after it. Now that I have moved on from short fiction to this series of post-apocalypse romance novels, I’ll risk it all again, and I’ll be a better writer for it. I don’t doubt for a second that it’s worth it.