“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”
― William Shakespeare
My love of words started like most writers I know. It started with a story. In this case, the stories came from the imagination of my great-aunt, Delia. She weaved magical tales to send me to sleep. She wasn’t a writer, she never wrote any of her stories on paper, and she read to me too, but I loved her stories best. Neither of us knew she was giving me the greatest gift of all, the gift of storytelling. I wish she were alive to see the impact she had on me and I often wonder what she would think about me being a published author.
In truth, I think my family knew I was going to grow up to be a writer before I did. I’m lucky, really. A lot of writers talk about how their friends and family would roll their eyes and tell them to stop dreaming, to think about getting a real job. In my family, dreaming was encouraged. I guess, in that way, it helped having an artist for a mother, someone who understood and promoted creativity. I have to thank my dad too, though. His scientific nature taught me to ask questions, instilled the value of hard work, and although he supported my creative side, he often reminded me that dreams wouldn’t make themselves and that you had to work to achieve your goals.
I remember at the age of four writing my first picture book. My mother still has it. I bound it with staples and my mother helped me draw the pictures and spell the words I didn’t know how to spell myself. My grandfather would buy me books and even bought me a subscription to writer’s digest. Let me be clear that they never pushed me to write, but their subtle acts of encouragement built my confidence. The fact that my family took the time to recognize a natural passion and talent in me is something I will always be grateful for.
Our house was always filled with books. We were readers, spending countless hours in libraries and bookstores devouring stories. At the age of eleven I started my first novel. (No, you can’t read it. It’s buried in a deep dark hole somewhere in the Tasmanian Outback and guarded by a three-headed dingo.) I told my parents I wanted to be published by the age of sixteen. I also told them I wanted to be Wonder Woman, a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, and an archaeologist. Those dreams faded. I never did get that invisible jet, and a new dream emerged. I was going to be an actress. I studied theatre and music from an early age and went on to major in Musical Theatre with the dream of moving to London and performing on a West End stage. I never stopped writing, but it became a hobby, a private way of dealing with stress but not something I thought of ever publishing. That dream had faded along with the rest.
Then something happened. My junior year of college, I became ill and started suffering fatigue, headaches, and dizziness. I became depressed. I slept all day, missed classes, and was put on probation. I suffered from shingles and anxiety attacks and managed to catch every virus and bug I came in contact with. Everything I touched turned to ash. The confident, carefree, fun loving girl was gone and an empty shell took her place. My mind was poisoned with dark thoughts. I decided to leave school and move home. I was treated for depression but that wasn’t the root cause. After two years of tests I was finally diagnosed with hypothyroidism. One little pill a day changed my life and slowly brought me back to myself physically, but my mind had been damaged, my confidence shot, and my goals devoured.
During those years of illness and depression, writing became my lifeline. I threw myself into other worlds, using stories as a cathartic tool. The idea for Pretty Dark Nothing was born from those dark days. As I helped Quinn battled her demons, she helped me learn to battle mine and it was in that moment that I knew everything happens for a reason. My path wasn’t the stage, it was the written page. My focus changed and I threw myself wholly into my true passion, the one I had been denying for years, and never looked back. I am a writer. I can’t deny the very core of what makes me who I am. I’m blessed to have achieved my goal for publication, but for me, writing isn’t really about a book deal. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be a published author and to be able to make a living doing what I love, but at the core, writing is not about making money. It’s about the foundation of my soul, my life blood. I write because I can’t imagine a life without it, it’s my chosen destiny.
What about you? Can you imagine life without writing? Have you dreamed of being something other than a writer? Do you think destiny is something you choose or is your path written in the stars?