How I ‘Became a Writer,’ or alternatively, Buckets of Unicorns

overshare, writing

I decided to be a professional writer in kindergarten. Inspired by the Whisper the Winged Unicorn series, my best buddy and I made a pact to produce books of interest to both kids and adults. I would be responsible for the words and she for the illustrations. At the time, the pictures were the much more salient portion, and I remember feeling grumpy about being stuck on serif duty. But you couldn’t have a book without words, and she was the better artist, so I went along with it.

Whisper the Winged Unicorn combined the two most desirable traits of my My Little Ponies (favorites here and here and here and here). Who knew what other worlds could be imagined in a universe of such infinite possibility?

So, yeah, writer, speculative fiction, early on. Settled.

My first novel concerned an ensemble cast of unicorns and their quest to find a new homeland safe from the aggressions of a villainous wolf pack. I laboriously scratched it out in a wide ruled notebook with a holographic cover featuring a rearing unicorn (not Lisa Frank, but of the same genus). My next major work was about the wolves, who ultimately got some well-deserved revisionist treatment.

I’d also been spending  quite a bit of time in my very own second world called Sysleth, cribbed mostly from Narnia and Middle Earth but with a few attributes that were entirely its own.The most prominent Sysleth resident was Secret, a winged wolf with the ability to travel between dimensions. She was my imaginary best friend for much longer than is normal for a child to talk to an imaginary best friend. There were also unicorns, natch.

Then there was a long period of excruciatingly bad teenage poetry.

[I found some samples, thinking I would post them for a laugh. I can’t bring myself to do it. They’re too terrible.]

But then in high school I wrote an avalanche of short stories. They were melodramatic and goofy, but they were also honest. If my unfortunate stab at poetry had been all about proving to the entire world how mysterious and dark and tortured I was (I was none of those things), the short stories I wrote in high school and college helped me organize the world and start trying to work out my place in it.

And then for reasons I still don’t quite understand, I spent fifteen years bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t “become a writer” after all.

I don’t know where Brittle Strength came from, but suddenly I found myself captaining a story that I believed in one literal stormy night in the spring of 2015. Once I had something like a first draft under my belt, I started getting serious. I commissioned some professional head shots from an old friend and pro photographer, made a logo with the word “writing” in the title, and started trying to figure out Twitter. Brittle Strength is still nowhere near ready for anyone to see it, but it’s also not my only project anymore.

But I guess I truly “became” a writer a couple of days ago when I sent off a short story to a literary magazine. I got rejected. It was an extremely fast form rejection, too. My piece sat at #41 in their queue when I woke up at 7:00 am, and the rejection landed in my inbox around 8:00 am. That doesn’t give me much room to imagine slush pile readers reading and rereading my piece, arguing passionately with their editor for my inclusion before regretfully–perhaps even tearfully–deciding against the work for reasons that most definitely had nothing to do with its quality.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting a little, but I feel more milestoned than stung. This morning, I let myself grumble for a few minutes and then submitted to a couple of other places instead. Rinse, repeat, right? I feel like I’m legitimately trying to Do This Thing I Want to Do, instead of whining about how I am Unable To Do The Thing. I also finished something, which is an enormous step forward for me. So on balance I count the experience as a win.

So yep. There’s the answer to that, for posterity.

One thought on “How I ‘Became a Writer,’ or alternatively, Buckets of Unicorns

  1. Very nice story about becoming a writer. I also love the title.

    It occurs to me only now that for the number of My Little Ponies I had, I only ever made up stories as I played with them. I never wrote those stories down.

    And I just recently got two rejection letters on a Sunday. My first thought: ‘Seriously, you worked on a Sunday just to send me a rejection?’

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