I’ve called myself a writer for 6 years. It took me about 3 years to realize that “writer” is synonymous with “crazy.” Back before I donned the “writer” label, I wrote a mystery about a girl who marries a guy with split personalities. I don’t remember much about writing this manuscript, except that I did it in my parents’ basement on an ancient computer that was eventually fried by lightning. That book is still around on one of my flash drives. Sometimes I open it and read a few pages—and maybe it’s not brilliant or a work of art, but it is special. I also completely forgot that I wrote it…until I stumbled upon it one day.
A few years later, I completed a young adult manuscript. It took me 4 weeks to write it during a college break. I remember spending all my free time glued to my laptop. I wore the finish off chairs at Border’s, I woke up early and stayed up late because, just one more chapter. It wasn’t brilliant or a work of art, or truthfully, special, but it was so rewarding. Writing became my release, my place to hide and unwind, and feel safe.
I allowed a few close friends into my circle of trust, printing pages for them to read because I was terrified of having my work hijacked online. (I know, I know, crazy, right?) I remember sneaking into a lab at school with one of my classmates so I could print the pages for free. It was like Christmas when they returned the story with comments and thoughts and feedback written in pink or purple ink. I wasn’t the only one connecting with my characters. My friends were instant fans.
I lost myself in the wonder of creating a new world. One book became two, then three. I had an entire series, and then a spin‐off book. These characters became like real people. Even now, I can tell you their favorite foods, where they went on vacation as a child, their likes and dislikes. Everything felt so possible in those days. Sometimes I wish they’d never ended.
There is an inevitable point in every writer’s life where they cross from the “honeymoon stage” into the “reality stage.” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, more of a wakeup call. Eventually, every writer needs to let someone more experienced look at their work. Every writer (who is serious about being a writer) needs to learn and grow. Oftentimes this means taking off the rose‐colored glasses and seeing our work for what it really is: In Progress. What follows is a lot of editing, frustration, tears, and heartbreak. But that’s not what this post is about.
Writing, like any art, should make us feel. So when I’m pressured to live up to everything I’ve learned, I go back to that safe place, those early days of pure joy. Writing isn’t about getting it perfect the first time, it’s about the feeling you get creating something wonderful. It’s so easy to get lost, especially when we raise our standards to nearly unreachable heights. We can literally edit our work to death.
So whether you’re a new writer, an intermediate writer, or someone who’s been around the block a time or two, take some time and return to that safe place. Write for the happiness it brings you, not because you want to be the next best seller or impress an agent or because you have to. Put the world on the back burner. Tune out those nagging voices and let a blank page fill you with possibility. Let the words fall from excited hands. The manuscript may change with time, but the way it made you feel will stick around forever.
KACEY VANDERKARR is a young adult author. She dabbles in fantasy, romance, and sci‐fi, complete with faeries, alternate realities, and the occasional plasma gun. She’s known to be annoyingly optimistic and listen to music at the highest decibel. Kacey is president of the Flint Area Writers and the Social Media Director for Sucker Literary. When she’s not writing, she coaches winterguard and works as a sonographer. Kacey lives in Michigan, with her husband, son, and crazy cats. In addition to her novels, Antithesis, Reflection Pond, and Poison Tree, Kacey’s short fiction is featured in Sucker Literary Vol III, Out of the Green: Tales from Fairyland, Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things, and will appear in the forthcoming Spark Vol VII.