By Sara Lambert
I have always been a writer.
From the time I could reach my grandmother’s typewriter, I’ve pounded away at the keys, unleashing the stories in my head. When no typewriters or, later, computers were available, I’d scratch words out on paper until my hand ached too bad to continue. When even paper was unavailable, I told them to myself out loud, which would often cause embarrassment when one of my brothers would catch me.
I never shared anything I wrote. A delicate self-esteem told me it wasn’t good enough, and I certainly didn’t want to have someone patronizing me by claiming they liked it when they really didn’t.
Because of this, I never finished anything. I started two novels at the tender age of twelve, wrote pages and pages, and because I was afraid, I never finished either of them, and certainly never let anyone read them.
But I always wanted to be a published novelist, and to be a published novelist, you must first be a novelist, which means you have to finish a novel. Beginning, middle, end.
Over the years, I’ve created hundreds of beginnings, significantly fewer middles and absolutely zero endings. I really thought I couldn’t do it. I wanted to—more than anything—but I used my procrastination as an excuse, and who was there to keep me accountable? No one, because I refused to share.
Last March, my job situation changed so that I would be working from home, and there was an idea in my head that was interesting to me, so I wrote a few pages. Usually, that is enough to satisfy my inner writer, but this time the characters kept talking. I had about 10,000 words written that first week.
And then I had this friend, someone I trust, someone I don’t have to look in the eye every day, ask me if she could take a look at it. I was on the verge of hyperventilation by the time I clicked “send,” and I may have had a stroke while she read it.
But she liked it, and encouraged me to write more. Day after day, chapter after chapter, she responded with a resounding positive, offering advice when I asked for it, support when I needed it, a shoulder to cry on when I was overwhelmed and a swift kick in the pants when I tried to give up. I never realized the importance of moral support, whether it’s from a friend or a peer, until I allowed someone else to be that for me.
Three months, a lot of headaches, a few tears and 100,000 words later, I had finished my very first novel.
That, combined with my first foray into NaNoWriMo (which I won!), brought my total word count for 2009 somewhere in the neighborhood of 175,000 words, and really, even if none of those words ever make it to the shelf at your local bookstore, I am still extremely proud of myself for sticking with it.
Sara Lambert is the winner of the 2009 Procrastinating Writers essay contest. SARA–I’ve been trying to contact you for a week! Please e-mail me ASAP to claim your prizes: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second place winner is Alanna Klapp.
The third place winner is Karin Englund.
The second and third place essays will be published on Procrastinating Writers next week.