For six years, I did not finish any book I started writing, and I barely read new fiction. From the spring of my freshman year of college (2006) to the spring of 2012, I barely wrote, and I didn’t finish a single story that wasn’t for a grade (I took one college creative writing course for which I wrote flash fiction and one short story). Part of that was because college required me to write so much that wasn’t fiction, and part of that was depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder.
Giving creativity and brainspace to college? Good. I love what I studied and if I went back today, I’d pick the same college and the same major. I’d take more history classes, but hindsight’s twenty twenty. I don’t regret giving up brainspace and creative time to college. Some people can balance this, and I didn’t/couldn’t, and that’s okay.
I do regret losing brainspace and creative energy to mental illnesses. Note the differences in my word choice here. I gave up creative energy and brainspace to college. That was a choice. I lost brainspace and creative energy to my mental illnesses. I still do, though much less now thanks to medication and therapy.
But those six years…
Look, those years did things to my confidence. I stopped calling myself a writer. I stopped lurking on writer!Twitter and Absolute Write. I stopped reading fanfiction. I stopped reading new fiction for fun.
In April of 2012, something changed. That spring, I wrote four novels in six weeks. They are astonishingly bad. But it doesn’t matter because writing a book isn’t unlike popping open a can of Pringles.
In the fall of 2012, I wrote a hundred thousand words of fanfiction after seeing The Avengers. Fanfiction was amazing for my confidence and for my writing skills.
In February of 2013, I started writing The Girl with the Red Balloon, started a critique group, joined an established critique group, and started working on my craft.
In December of 2013, I queried for the first time in my life.
In early May of 2014, I signed with an agent and sold Serenade, which was retitled Second Position.
In April of 2015, I debuted with Second Position, with Finding Center out in August of 2015.
In March of 2016, I sold The Girl with the Red Balloon.
Five years ago, I didn’t think I’d ever write another book. As of today, I’ve sold five books.
It is possible to come back from a long drought. It is possible to look back and think, “Did I really think that?” and wish you could write a letter to your past self. But I am where I am because of where I’ve been, and I wouldn’t change that.
I needed that drought so I could have a degree so I could get a job that supported me while I wrote because nothing kills my creativity faster than financial insecurity. I needed college to meet people who were different and energizing and whom I love. I needed to travel because I needed to be alone for the first time in my life and I needed to be out of my comfort zone. And I needed time to understand what stable mental health looks like and feels like for me, to find a space and learn when I needed support and how to ask for it.