I Dreamed a Dream

By Katherine Shaye

It is hard for me to distinguish at what point in my life I went from the dreams of childhood to the career pursuits of an adult. If I’d stuck to my guns when I was eight, I’d now be a retired Olympic gymnast reliving my glory days on a talk show. Instead, I am now (among other things) an aspiring novelist, a dream that I’ve picked up only recently. So what’s the difference between my dream now and my dream then? Aside from an increased ability and drive to pursue an actual career, I would say not much.

It makes me ask myself – what really makes my dream worth chasing, and at what point do I put it on the back burner in favor of something more practical?

The reason for this sudden introspective rant is this:

Are Books Dead, and Can Authors Survive?

An article pointed out to me in a writing forum by an editing friend who thought the topic deserved some discussion. After reading it, I have to wonder, do I have skin thick enough to enter into a rapidly changing, somewhat shrinking industry, where only the truly great and quickly adapting survive? What will it really mean to be an author over the next 10 years as I try to build a career and get published? Am I gritty enough to stick it out?

I look back at where I started. Back in my early college days when writing was just a way to blow off steam and get silly daydreams out of my head. I wrote a lot, but rarely finished anything— ideas flitting too quickly through my head for me to sit with just one.  Writing was just a hobby; I was allowed to be flighty. I’d gotten a few comments from friends along the lines of “It’s pretty good,” and “I really liked it. Is there more?” Nothing I really took seriously. There was even one English paper that came back with the comment, “Very well written. Wish it were more on topic.” All praises, but nothing that said “This is it, you’ve got it. Go be a writer.”

My lackadaisical writing career continued like this until senior year when real life started looming and I decided to get adventurous. What if I really did become a writer? It was time to do some learning.

I joined a writing forum (or Accentuate Writers). Nothing fancy, just a place where I could upload my work and have it critiqued by other people in the same position as me—new and unpublished talents, testing the waters to see if we were
up to snuff. Reviews poured in and I shared my thoughts with others. I was getting positive feedback and gaining much needed confidence. Things were rolling along nicely.

Then I got my first negative review. I’d like to say that the critic didn’t know what he was talking about, that he was jealous of the profundity of my piece. But that would be a lie. This critic, while very curt and clearly not a fan of my work, gave me nothing but good advice—not that I could acknowledge that right away. It was the kind of feedback that cuts a little too close to honesty, usually echoing insecurities you already had about
a piece. They were comments I definitely needed but didn’t necessarily want.

Cue the week of mourning.

I didn’t even look at my computer screen for the next seven days, most of my time spent ignoring the fact that I’d ever picked up a pen at all.

Finally, I went back. I reread the punishing critique, picked out the relevant bits and reworked my story.  A week later, I entered it into a short story contest and a month after that I found out that the piece had won first place. It was getting published. My greatest sense of failure and success all wrapped up in that one little piece.

Fast forward to now.

Is this the story of a burgeoning artist’s epic struggle towards success? Not really, but it is the beginnings of a journey, my journey, and I suppose the point is that none of the rest of it matters. Writing is something I love to do and it’s worth a shot. Even in a potentially failing industry, even if I’m not any good. It’s still worth it to try.


Because I Said So
Vicki Winslow’s Blog
Stress Management for Writers

About sendmeonmyway101

I graduated in May. I don't have a job. I'm living with my parents. I'm a Stay At Home Daughter.

4 responses »

  1. Dear Katherine:

    This is Laura Lee, the author of the Stress Management for Writers blog you linked to.
    Good for you for having the courage to consider becoming a writer in this crazy, mixed up, what is the future of writing anyway, world. I say, GO FOR IT! But do keep in mind that you may have to get some sort of day job before your career develops.

    If you have some interest in becoming a librarian (what I did for 25 years BEFORE becoming a writer) go get some sort of assist job at the library and check it out. But KEEP WRITING!

    One of my greatest regrets was waiting until I was 50 to finally start writing professionally. This is something you can do while doing other jobs, so don’t feel like to have to choose just one career right now. Go out and and try out lots of different lines of work and then you will know better where you fit in. Even volunteer, just get some solid experience in the work world before you commit to anything, and write about your experiences for others to learn from them on this blog!

    Good Luck and please let me know how it goes,
    Laura Lee

  2. There’s something I’ve never quite understood about people under age 30 choosing to become professional authors of fiction. I don’t think most of them know enough about life to do it very well. Yes, they can do tricks using form and style, but the depth of content is lacking. All my favorite authors like Twain, Dickens, Shakespeare (and many others), performed other professions when young that writing was an unpaid part of. There’s also the problem that it takes a person of exceptional character to be able to consistently write for the truth and importance of the ideas, and not just because the subject (say, vampires) is more likely to be popular, or because the movie studio wants a 50th draft for a comic book reboot.

    The uses for fiction are changing. Much of what is labeled “news” is now storytelling and opinion and not reportage. There’s a lot of fiction being employed for political purposes. Though it probably is becoming harder to make a living creating the old-fashioned kind of fiction, the very best writers do all right, as do the lucky ones who may not write as well but hit the button of what the majority of recreational readers are attracted to at a given time. I’m fine with knowing all the rest will be paid less, because they are trainees. They are either learning to be excellent or to be good sellouts. The digitalization of content is democratizing all forms of writing and publishing. Fewer elites means fewer will be paid. I accept that.

    I love writing too, and I love reading good writing. Because it is a pleasure for me to be doing it, I don’t expect others to pay me for it, and I don’t much care if they steal it. Actually, I’m flattered when they find it worth stealing.

    Your story (“My Bad Review”) begins with “I joined a writing forum” and ends with “failure and success all wrapped up in that one little piece.” You don’t need any of the rest, including the other person’s article that inspired you. That’s your secret to cherish and utilize. Your own story about what it takes to turn good into great is THE story. You dilute its power with all the sidetracks. I enjoyed reading and thinking about your piece, but I won’t be giving you money for it. You’ve been paid. I gave you my time, and I paid attention.

    • When I started reading this I thought I had another bad review on my hands that was going to take me a while to get over. I’m glad that’s not the case. You make some good points and they have given me much to think about. Thank you for your enlightening input.

  3. Pingback: Should one try to become a writer these days? | Stress management for writers

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