Read part one here. Thanks to Breathe Writer’s Conference for publishing this story–my story about discovering I was a writer. Are you a writer? Check your nametag. You might be surprised. 🙂 To learn more about writing, why not come to the Breathe Writer’s Conference with me, this October 7-8? I’ll be leading a lunch forum, titled, “Self-Promotion: Greedy or Godly?” I’d love to see you there!
The first time I was asked to speak, it was with my mom. Though we were both passionate about the topic,we felt exactly the opposite about speaking. She was dreading it, and I couldn’t wait!
I worked for weeks, getting ready, and walked into the room barely able to contain my excitement. Then, afterward, the leader of the group said to me, “That was really good. Really good. You should write that down. Maybe you could get it published in a magazine!”
It was the first time I ever considered trying to be published. I liked the idea very much! It was like a seed, tucked into the place where you plant dreams. The encouragement of that leader’s brief compliment was enough to keep the seed watered and growing.
I talked last time about how I would write on Sunday afternoons, as my kids napped. But now, I began writing during weekday naptimes, too. After a month of work, I sent my first draft to my friend, Miriam, who was the only writer I knew. She graciously said, “It’s good, but you might want to trim it down a bit.” This was an understatement, for the article was 5,000 words! I thought, “She’s right! What was I thinking?” Oh, how much I didn’t know.
When I finally got my article bundled down to a trim size, I sent it to the only place I could think of: Focus on the Family. They accepted. I was delighted.
The week that my article went out to the 1.5 million subscribers to Focus on the Family Magazine, I had several phone calls from people who enjoyed my message. One lady, who was obviously from the south left a message on the answering machine, saying, “Shay-annon, what you wro-ote, was just bee-autiful…” I kept it on the machine for over a year. Another man called and talked to me as I folded four loads of laundry, smiling the whole time.
I was hooked. I loved writing! I loved the craft of shaping a message. I loved the honing work. And I especially loved hearing from the readers.
Soon after, I wrote about an experience with my son at Costco. “Potty Talk” was published by MomSense, and it’s the only thing I’ve written which has gone “viral”. Dozens of people told me that a friend had emailed it to them (this was back when people did that.) One friend said her sister was taping it up in public restrooms.
Now, I was double hooked. What could be better than telling stories and making people laugh? I knew now. I wanted to be a writer.
Wearing the Nametag
Even after I had been published, and even though I spent most of my free time writing, I still hesitated at calling myself a writer. I would say, “I like to write.” Or, “I have written a few things.” But to say, “I am a writer”? I just couldn’t do it.
That is, not until I approached the registration table at the Breathe Writers Conference.
I looked down at the nametag I was handed, and there it was. Beneath my name was the label: Writer. I took a deep breath. Writer? Did I need permission to put it on? Didn’t I need to show someone credentials? Perhaps my name in print, or a link to my blog? I glanced at the atrium filled with people who truly were writers. They had the title I was dreaming of claiming. Daring to hope.
Putting on that nametag felt like a deeply solemn thing to do. I stood there for a bit, holding it in my hand. But then, with gravity, feeling the weight of the action, I slipped it on. And I’m wearing the title still.
I’m a writer.
It happened slowly, gradually, over many years.
It happened over many cups of coffee with many other writers, encouraging me to try.
It happened through receiving rejection after rejection, which made me try revision after revision.
It happened as God swung open many doors, which I was brave enough to knock on.
It happened. I became a writer.
So let me ask you. Are you a writer? If you’re cringing or turning pink, the way I was at the check-in counter of Breathe, maybe you shouldn’t answer yet. Just breathe. And Breathe. And let God answer the question. He’s the one who knows best.