Whenever I tell people that I’m a writer, they always ask me if I have any books published. I’ve always felt like this was a heavy question. Heavy on the writer because writing involves a lot of writing before one ever reaches that “published” status. Perhaps it is more fitting for those published people to introduce themselves as “Publisheders”. But since that isn’t a thing, what do we call someone who is in that pre-published phase? A not-a-writer? A dreamer? Strangely, the question is also heavy on the asker, as displayed in the way peoples faces always fall into a state of shame on the writer’s behalf. The conversation usually trudges on solemnly with the other asking half-hearted questions about what you write. If I’m honest, it’s a sucky turn in the conversation. I’m personally more passionate about the act of writing than I am about having a coherent product to show off, so some of my steam usually gets let out during this part of the conversation. On another level, I feel like this publishing question also invalidates the years of work that go on in the lives of unpublished authors. It also invalidates the reality of the super-competitive publishing market, and it invalidates the craft that is the act of writing.
The first storybook I ever wrote was in grade 7 or 8. I was about 13 years old. I don’t remember all the details, but basically, they gave us a project and asked us to write a short story, draw pictures and bind pages to create a storybook for younger children who didn’t have access to a library. I’m not sure why the school didn’t just ask us for money so we could contribute to getting those kids’ proper books. I would have gladly given money since I loved reading, and I wanted to share that passion with others. So that was my first ever self “published” book. I remember being so proud of it too. I wrote a story about a mermaid. I think it was an adventure story, but I can’t be sure. Maybe my story was boring and maybe it barely made sense, but the feeling of sitting down to write and make the book has always stayed with me. I’ve never given birth before, but I imagine it feels similar to that feeling (minus the pain, financial obligation and irreparable damage to one’s organs). I still think about that book sometimes. I wonder if anyone ever read it. I wonder if it inspired the reader to write, just as my favourite authors had inspired me.
I didn’t think about writing again after that project. None of the teachers set it as a task again, and between keeping busy with nerdy things like schoolwork and reading, I didn’t have the time for a new hobby. It was another two years before I picked up a pen with intention again. I was dying of boredom in my grade 9 accounting class, where the teacher was as uninterested in teaching as I was in learning the subject. I wasn’t bad at accounting or anything. Very much the opposite. The teacher would usually put up a projection of the task for the day and proceed to grab her coke and cigarettes before going out to enjoy the rest of the lesson outside in the corridor. She would ignore the goings on of the class as she sipped away at her two favourite things. An activity that should have taken me at least half an hour of diligent work to finish, would usually take me 15 minutes or less to get through. I would spend the rest of the lesson sleeping or doing maths homework (I went through a phase where I didn’t do any math homework at home if I could help it – again, I didn’t hate maths; it was my favourite subject, but I just had better things to do! The books weren’t going to read themselves!).
Over time maths homework and naps became boring, so I used the time to pursue a new hobby. At first, I wrote prose poetry. It was fun; it didn’t take much planning, and it honestly flowed out of me so easily it felt perfect as a new hobby. But something about it relied too heavily on what was happening in my life at the time or feelings I was dealing with that it was hard to keep up during the dry spells. This is when I began to write my first novel. As you’d expect from a 15-year-old hormonal teen, the story was about a love triangle as told by my main character. I think I wrote this story for 8 years before I finally stopped. The story wasn’t complete, but in those 8 years, Vampire diaries, Twilight and other similar YA novels became popular. It was mind-boggling to see stories so similar to mine blowing up all over the world. This taught me my first lesson about creativity and writing: If you don’t release it into the world, someone else will.
If you’ve read this far, you might think that my title is a bit misleading. What about publishing? I’ve made a case against using it to measure a writer’s validity, but how do I explain this blog title? Again, I’d like to reiterate that I do not believe that the publications make the writer. With just over 17 years of writing behind me, I think it’s safe to say that I am already a writer. I’ve done my 10 000 hours. This isn’t the tale of my long history of writing exploits, so I won’t bore you with more details of my time writing screenplays, attempting to produce other books, or starting blogs that have since gone cold. What I will say is that this, my third attempt at getting into the blogosphere, has been the one time where I have learnt the most about my craft (side-note, this is outside of my UX writing job, which required its unique lessons on the craft). This is thanks mainly to feedback. I have always had a fear of letting people read my work, giving only a select few members of my inner circle access to my secret trove of stories. These moments of exposing myself to feedback always did wonders for my stories, and I guess a part of me wished I was brave enough to do more. Imagine how amazing my writing would have become by now.
So I’ve been thinking of self-publishing. I’ve been thinking for 4 years. I think I’m finally ready now. Ready not because I have exceptionally exciting stories to share, but ready because I’ve finally reached that age where I realise there’s nothing to lose. I want broader feedback on my work, and the way the world is set up, I can have access to that through the Internet. I wrote a short story towards the end of last year. I hope you’ll join me in welcoming it into the world. Laurey is the first in a series of shorts that I’ll be putting out. I’m going to make this one free to download on Kindle every Friday to see how things go. If you are keen to check it out before then, I’ve made it super cheap to download. If you have a chance, give her a read. If you have another chance still, please send me your feedback.