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20 years found
friday, april 25, 2003

when i was in high school, i let someone else take control of my writing. i didn't know that was what i was doing, but when you let a single comment take away a dream for the next 20 years, that's what you are doing - giving them control.

i've been writing for almost as long as i can remember. i started off with silly, juvenile poetry (okay, so i was only like 10, so it would be juvenile) and eventually moved into short stories. i wrote some pretty bizarre shorts, according to one of my friends, and she was probably right. by high school i was dreaming of being a published novelist. i didn't have a novel idea in mind yet, but i knew that's what i wanted to do. i expressed this idea to someone - i don't think it was one of my teachers as they were a very encouraging lot - and he or she said, "every tom, dick, and harry wants to write the great american novel. you don't have a chance."

now, notice, the person did NOT say that my writing sucked, only that anything i wrote would get buried under a pile of manuscripts and pretty much never see the light of day. but i was a sensitive kid and took it to mean that my writing sucked. and i stopped. well, not completely, but i stopped dreaming and stopped trying to be a better writer. there was no point since i'd never be good enough. i used my writing to develop game story lines as a gm and to write dark, emotional poetry when i was depressed.

until recently i resented those lost 20 years. i wondered if i would be published by now and how much of a better writer i would be. it was time horrible wasted on other things and other goals. coming back to writing was like coming home. this is where i belonged and i let someone else take it away from me.

not too long ago i realized i needed those 20 years. i needed the space to grow. if i had published my novel, it would totally suck compared to what it is even now in a rough draft. i needed to experience things, mature a little, become confident. i needed to experiment with various possible occupations so i could know and be secure in the fact that writing is it for me. there's still doubt every so often, but there is also a sense of certainty that i never had before. it is that certainty that helps me fight the doubts.

i found my lost 20 years. they gave me the time to become and be and experience everything that i needed to become and be and experience. they are what have made me a better writer. the confidence is still shaky some days, but maybe that won't be so bad in another 20 years. sometimes i do wonder how different i would be if i had stuck to writing, if i would have learned everything i know now or would have still been floundering around. i didn't the people then that i do now, people who have helped me grow as a writer, professors who believed in me, places where i could grow and learn in safety because everyone was a writer trying to figure out the whole writing thing. i am happy with who i've become as a person and a writer and missing even one of those 20 years would make a profound difference in who i am today.

sometimes all we need is time.

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