Words have invaded my sleep and daydreams since my earliest memories. They once served to distract me from my schoolwork enough so my teachers regularly wrote on my quarterly report cards: “Kimberly is daydreaming in class again” and “Kimberly does well in English and Reading, but she refuses to show her work in math.” My parents lost all patience when, in fifth grade, I was sent to the principal’s office for telling one science teacher to, “Leave me the hell alone.”
Words were my sanctuary. Stories and poems were my companions. Aside from my dog, books were my best friends.
Until I became a mother, I wrote bits and pieces—a story here and a poem there. Many of them are lost but a large portion remain tucked away in my desk where I’ve placed them in a binder. Once in a while I dust it off and read some of the words I put down at age ten, sixteen, twenty-six and thirty. Indeed, most of it is hokey and riddled with angst. Still, these treasures serve to remind me of my greatest passion, and that is…writing.
After I began to have children I had a spurt of writing inspiration and entered some poems in a couple of local contests—and won. My exuberance was short-lived. Divorce, work and single-parenthood seem to have that effect.
In reality, love and passion for writing and words will not a writer make.
I did not begin to write with any regularity until I was in my early forties when, desperate for some peace of mind, I fervently put words on paper for therapeutic reasons. Instead of quitting, however, I formed a blog and kept writing. Along the way I learned what I am capable of sharing and, to my consternation, those words that have served to annihilate—killing me and some relationships. Blogging left me and some of my loved ones feeling too vulnerable, so I turned to fiction.
Last year I fell unwittingly into participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) when a former co-worker informed me of the November activity after we discovered we had a mutual interest in writing. Clueless, I signed up to write at least a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. I already had a story in the works, so I went with that one. After the first week I realized I was a bumbling idiot to listen to my friend. How in the world do people do this every day? My dismay was palpable.
Determined to finish, I wrote over 70,000 words for NaNoWriMo and went on to finish the first draft of my first novel at just under 95,000 words. My enduring distrust in others would not allow me to acquire any writing buddies or go to some of the local write-ins. Alone, I trudged forward. Much of my inspiration was gleaned from my husband and best friend, who cheered me to continue on and write.
When I was finished, I felt I had climbed Mt. Everest, or sailed around the world, accomplishing some miraculous feat of valor. No doubt it was a high moment.
The crash came in January after I printed the manuscript and placed it in a binder, preparing to begin the revision process. Life happened. Our dog died and we were subsequently hit with a string of illnesses and deaths. My manuscript was relegated to the dusty corner in my desk where my youthful treasures were already taking up space.
In late September I decided I had to get back to writing. Since I had already begun another novel and even a third, it was about time I took this “writing thing” more seriously.
I signed up to participate in the 2015 October Platform Challenge with Robert Lee Brewer, editor with Writer’s Digest. http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/2015-october-platform-challenge-guidelines
When I first glanced at the information I was drawn more by my need to know what a “platform” was than the challenge itself. When I learned a writer needs a platform, much like a business owner or a politician—don’t associate me with the latter, please—I began to understand the importance of networking, connections and diligent effort. With NaNoWriMo 2015 looming before me in November, I had to do something to motivate myself into reestablishing and improving upon my workspace and work habits.
The challenge has served to enlighten me where social media, networking, and connecting with other writers, editors and even agents are concerned. I have learned it is important to know who I am as a writer, who my target audience is, and that I must be willing to put myself out there and become noticed by making connections with other writers…and editors…and, oh my goodness…agents! I established who I am and my target audience, but the last part was onerous.
Who…me…put myself in the spotlight? People will see my work and be free to criticize.
With the initial push of that challenge behind me, I now face the more arduous challenge of being a writer.
I once dabbled in writing. Dare I say it—writing was a hobby.
In the past I was a daughter, sister, wife, mother, and case manager—in essence, a helper. I was taught I must help others no matter the cost. Being a helper requires being selfless.
Despite what my exes or some others may believe, being selfish does not come easily for me. It is almost impossible for me to focus on writing when someone else needs me. My creative writing professor in college told me, “Kim, you must carve it out. Make time for you.” When she said this, I had three young children at home and slept about three hours a night…on a good night. She knew I had the dream and the potential to be a good writer. She also knew I put it last.
As I write this blog, I am still struggling with making writing a priority and being a writer. My husband has been home all week because his back went out on him. He’s been in terrible pain. My plans to do NaNoWriMo prep and finish the October Platform challenge tasks had to be put aside. Since I start a new full time job on November 4th I had hopes to do more outline preparation and character exploration. It has not happened. My husband tells me to go write, but knowing he is here and in so much pain, my conscience will not let me go do a selfish thing while he needs me. Therefore, I have focused on caring and being present for him.
On a good day, my husband demands a lot of attention. He’s a wonderful man with a huge heart, a loving and devoted husband, a devoted son and father. I wouldn’t trade my guitar, collection of books, or even my, um, coffee for him.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Once in a while, though, I have the urge to choke him when for the hundredth time he calls out to me, “Honey, I don’t mean to bother you, but… baby…where is….?” Then there are the more maddening sighs, moans, and general sounds of dismay and frustration he makes without even realizing he’s doing it. Despite the times I try to lovingly and gently point out his involuntary intrusions, he still looks bewildered when I start pulling my hair while my head spins and pea soup projects from of my mouth.
My need to write, to be a writer, has begun to outweigh my need to help and please, so I remain at war with myself. I can be resentful and throw my hands up and quit. I can tell myself it is not meant to be. I can relegate myself to helping and pleasing and being a good girl, daughter, mother and wife.
However, I must approach writing as one approaches living—it is just as important as air, water, food, and sleep. It IS… life.
Maybe it is selfish, but it is also necessary. Being a writer has to be a priority now. I’ve lived nearly half a century putting the writer aside and being the helper, doing all the things I was supposed to do.
So now, I choose to write.
Kim Bailey Deal
October 28, 2015
For more information about NaNoWriMo go to http://nanowrimo.org/
For more good writing, editing, and publishing advice go to http://www.writersdigest.com/
For more on Robert Lee Brewer, his writing, and how to connect go to http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides and http://www.robertleebrewer.com/about/