Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
My new teaching year started last week. I teach forty-one piano lessons Monday through Thursday, practice a minimum of two hours a day, and have ensemble rehearsals Monday evenings and Thursday mornings. My duo partner and I have four performances scheduled over the next few months, and the annual Redeemer Piano Ensemble concert will take place in November. My students are motivated and thriving and I am playing better than I have ever played in my life. Where music is concerned, things couldn’t be better.
I wish I could say the same thing about writing.
Last year, I went to RWA Nationals in Atlanta, I was a finalist in the Unpublished Maggie Awards for Excellence, and accepted my Honorable Mention at the Moonlight & Magnolias conference, where I received two requests for the full manuscript. Poised for success, I nearly stopped writing altogether.
Why didn’t I finish the novel and submit it? Why have I done virtually nothing with my writing in the past twelve months? Well, teaching plays the bills, and from the day I took my very first piano lesson, at the ripe old age of seven years old, I knew wanted to be a piano teacher. Furthermore, my philosophy is “those who teach, play.” Keeping up my own music study makes me a better teacher and gives me credibility as a professional. But I am a woman of many passions. While teaching and playing are a huge part of my identity, I also feel compelled to make things with my hands and to write. And just as I believe my students and I mustn’t keep our music to ourselves, I want to share my writing with the world. I dream of being a published novelist and having readers who love my work just as much as I love reading the books of my favorite authors.
I began writing fiction five years ago, and even though I have read many books on the craft of writing, attended numerous workshops and conferences, and joined a couple of professional organizations, I still feel like I am staggering blindly through the darkness as a writer. I don’t know what I am doing or where I am going and no one seems to have any concrete or specific advice for me other than to keep writing. And lately I have been tempted to give up the dream. There would be one less thing to try to fit into my busy days, one less reason to feel a failure. Besides, if I ever were to be published, not only would I need to continue to find time to write, I would also need to make time for branding and promotion. How in the world would I manage all that?
Well, I personally know many women who are successfully juggling writing careers full-time jobs and families. And even though it is a blow every time a submission is rejected, I know deep inside that my writing isn’t good enough – yet – to be selected for publication. But I also believe that perhaps I do have what it takes to succeed, provided I persevere. After all, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know how play the piano; I have definitely put in my ten thousand hours at the instrument. Recognizing that helps put my experience as a writer into perspective.
So I’m holding onto my dream and renewing my commitment to writing every day, along with submitting to an agent or an editor and entering a contest at least once each month. After all, the worst thing that can happen is that I will never be published. But I will have the satisfaction of knowing I gave it my best shot. And there is no shame or cause for regret in that.