This is a guest post by Jessica Bayliss.
I came to writing at a time when I was tired, worn out, burned out. I’d just finished my degree in psychology, which involved many years of classwork, exams, and applying for multiple training positions—many of which required competing against other students for scarce spots. For a decade, I did little for me other than my absolute necessities. I missed sleep, I missed parties, I missed trips. I stayed home when everyone else went and had a good time.
I told myself it was worth it.
And ten, a decade later, I was done, and instead of feeling energized, I was tired. And so I wrote. I wrote not knowing if I’d finish my first book. I wrote not knowing how to write at all, not really, not the way that works for fiction, but I did it anyway. And before that first book was done, I was ready for more and ready to put myself out there. My first queries met with only rejection, which was appropriate—they were terrible—but at that time, I didn’t understand how to make them better. All I knew was that I wasn’t good enough, which was hard. I thought of giving up, but as the stress built—from work, from rejection, from everything else in life—I needed to get it out, and so I wrote.
Critique groups are hard. You go to get feedback, critiques, which, by definition, focus on the things you’re doing wrong. All I wanted was to be told, You can do it! You can write! But I got track-changes and properly-paced commas; and I lost filler and filter words. And I lost my voice. I came home one day, frustrated and beaten down, and my husband asked why I kept doing it if it made me unhappy, and I said that I didn’t know. I was done.
The next morning my chair was waiting, and my coffee was hot, and my computer was charged, and I sat down, and I wrote. My husband was surprised, he thought I quit, but I only shrugged. “What else am I going to do?” And so I wrote.
Eventually, I got that You can do it! You can write! but not from fellow writers. It came from someone who believed in me even though she had zero reason to believe in me. I hadn’t proved a thing to her, but that didn’t matter. She believed, and so I wrote.
Three years in, I finally found my writer tribe, and they taught me SO much. And then life happened, reminding me that utter ruin is just around the corner. No matter how well you prepare and how hard you work, you can still end up with nothing. Then life took people I loved—including my cheerleader—and bestowed disease on people I can’t bear to lose. And the rejections kept coming, as if everything in my life was okay. As if could handle one more letdown. And I coped with the stress the only way I knew how; I wrote. Until the day I didn’t get a no. That day, four years into my journey, I got a yes.
My first yes.
My mom still had cancer, and the future was still uncertain, but my story was going to be published in a real book, and it was the most incredible moment of my life. Even to this day. I will never forget what that email was like. I had leveled up. New things were now possible. Everything was possible. I’d done it. And I was more motivated than ever, and so I wrote.
I didn’t sleep for about two weeks after that, because every time I tried, that excitement came back. And it was a good thing, because for the first time in over a year, I was not-sleeping for a good reason. The stories filled my brain, and I woke up, tired but exhilarated, and I wrote them.
That one yes helped ease the no’s that came right after, but then something amazing happened. Another yes. And then another one. And then, a maybe—from an agent. An agent! My first requests came in, and I was sure it was going to happen. It. I’d be a writer. For real. And so I wrote.
Then the big disappointment. The day the call came, but it wasn’t the real call. It was my lowest point of all. Everything that had happened in the months prior came down on me, and it was like all that potential I’d seen had been smoke and mirrors. I cried. Then I stopped. And the info from the call that wasn’t the call was running through my brain, and before the redness had left my eyes and the stuffiness had left my nose, I wrote.
The possibilities and potential weren’t gone. More good things came. The competition, the call that was the call, then the offer. With these things came more excitement than I can capture in words, but they brought stress and uncertainty and self-comparison and not-measuring-up. At times, I realized that, though six years had passed since I typed the first words, I almost felt like I was in the same place. And so I wrote, because nothing eases the stress of being a writer like writing, like the story in my head.
In mere months, my book will be out, and I have no clue what that road will be like. It will definitely be exciting, and I’m sure I’ll have more sleepless nights—the good ones—but I’m sure I’ll have some of the bad, too. But I’ll be okay, because over the eight years since I started this “hobby,” I’ve learned so much, I’ve met incredible people, and I have a fabulous team behind me (including my mom, who’s doing well!). I can’t control what people will think of my book. All I can control is what I do next. The thing I’m most grateful for is that the writing never stopped being fun, exciting, and energizing. It’s still the thing that gets me through. I really hope people love my book, but if they don’t, there will be another book. I don’t know that, not yet, but I know it all the same. And, in the meantime, I’ll write. Because what else am I going to do?
NB: First off, THANK YOU to Amber Gregg and Judging More Than Just The Cover for having me back.
Last month, I wrote a post about my journey, and this is the same story, but not a story of dates and milestones. In some ways, this is the real story. To all the Wonderful Writers out there, if you’re looking for your cheerleader, let me be it. As long as you’re writing, you’re a writer. As long as you don’t quit, you can’t fail. And, never forget:
You can do it! You can write!
Jessica Bayliss is an author of commercial fiction who loves nothing better than getting lost in a good story, whether in print or on film. When not busy with her latest fiction project, she can be found loving her friends and family—especially her husband, Eric—playing with one pesky Havanese, or trying to appease an ornery cockatiel, typically with a cup of coffee near at hand.
Check out Jessica’s other posts: