All,  Lesson Learned,  Life,  Writing

take it seriously

I distinctly remember, as a child, hating to read. Summer reading was the bane of my vacation; my school’s spring reading challenge grated me because every year, before the competition had even begun, I knew I stood no chance of winning; and reading comprehension quizzes? They were a surefire reason to doubt my intelligence, and not to toot my own horn, but I was a pretty smart kid (until about seventh grade, that is, but everything falls to crap then anyway).

And yet, as a child also, I distinctly remember wanting to write a book. I loved to scribble little stories, short fantasy pieces, adventure tales, and in the sixth grade I nearly completed a massive volume of Harry Potter fan fiction. Not only did I enjoy the characters I created and the journeys I set them on, but simply the motions of pen on paper thrilled me.

Even as a young writer I knew I must read well to write well. There’s no way around it. But everyone my age hated to read, so I figured one day, all grown up, I would reconcile my hatred for reading to realize my dream of writing.

I did eventually learn to read well, though much later than I hoped. Years of high school required readings, The Iliad, Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, The Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick, they nearly beat the little flame of interest in me to ashes. I still loved to write, anything really, even Literature themes on books I hated. I was even talking about skipping college to become a journalist or a freelancer. Writing with purpose, direction, none of that fiction garbage.

I went to college. Majored in Communication Studies (still writing, but with broader applications, a brighter career outlook. Right?), wrote for the school newspaper, met my husband; got engaged and prepared to graduate. Just one year left, and in that year, my Capstone, a thirty-plus-pager and the peak of my education. The semester of my Capstone, a few things happened: I decided to read The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and I took a creative writing class. 

The Road split open the world for me. It was the book I had always wanted to read and it was the book I had always wanted to write. It spoke to my storytelling soul, and when I read it that old desire to write a book, no, to publish a novel — because that’s what the hope had always been — stirred alive, settled, stretched its roots.

I had learned to read and I wanted to write. Now the problem was I didn’t know what to say or, especially, where to begin. Even the young adult fiction I read seemed so unattainable, and here I was hopeful to lay my own works alongside them. Where to begin?

The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better. // Stephen King

A creative writing class was a good place to begin. Seeing all the parts of fiction ripped out and splayed down a sheet of note paper made fiction tangible, very possible. It was no longer just the jumble of sporadic inspiration I had always imagined; it also had structure, daily task lists and spreadsheets of characters and scenes. In time I discovered each story is a puzzle, one that I’m very fond of and quite determined to solve.

And now here I go. I’ve met a few unexpected obstacles and had my fair share of writer’s block since I first decided to publish a novel. I’ve dabbled with my books here, submitted a few short stories there, and basically wandered in hopeful circles accomplishing nothing. That’s where wishing and no grit will get you. But this year, following Stephen King’s order to “take writing seriously,” I’m getting down to business. I’ve worked into a daily rhythm and I’ve set lofty goals. Two short stories a month? No problem. Two thousand words a day in my novel? You betcha. Published by twenty-six? Well, here’s to hard work, great help, and a little good luck.

/// E.S.T.

NOW TELL ME // What do you like to read and write? Have you set any literary goals for yourself? Tell me below!


  • Katherine

    I love to read anything I can get my hands on, but when it comes to my writing, I have not dared ventured into the world of fiction since I was a kid. I would love to hear some of your tips on how to creatively write as a beginner!

    • Emily

      Thanks, Katherine! For beginners, I say to start small projects and write every day, even if it’s just a hundred words or so. Short stories are great for getting the feel of creating plot and character arcs without feeling overwhelmed by details or world building.

      Here is a great list of short story prompts for you to peruse:

      Happy writing!

  • Genevieve

    I have found that, the older I get, the more particular i am about the fiction pieces I pick up. And I don’t know why!! I think I have misconstrued views on what GOOD fiction writing is SUPPOSED to look like (silly words to be using in regards to art!), and when I am reading in a public setting, I feel the need to put on a show of sophistication, so I always opt for a biography or social commentary piece.
    But this post has awakened my mind and inspired me to reconsider. Thank you, Emily.

    • Emily

      Thank you, Genevieve! I sometimes feel insecure as well about the genres I enjoy reading and writing, but I try to remember that it really doesn’t matter. There will always be people like you in the same reading or writing boat!
      I actually want to discuss this in a later post, so stay tuned!

      Happy writing (and reading!)