L is for…Learning Curve

Whenever I call myself a writer, I feel a surge of excitement, happiness and contentment. Underneath the feeling of “rightness,” however, there’s a slow-moving mass of uncertainty and doubt. I’ve known about it for a few years, but, like anybody with an internet connection, I pretended it wasn’t there in favor of taking BuzzFeed quizzes. (Daniel Day-Lewis will play me in the movie, I am more Rachel than Monica and yes, I am smarter than a 5th grader, but not by much.)

It wasn’t until I attended a panel at AWP that I had a better sense of the uneasiness and doubt I felt. The panel, “Second Acts: Creative Writing as a Second Career,” featured a panel of wise women, all of whom were coming to writing after successful careers in other fields. I was especially moved and inspired by something author & panelist Bridgett Davis said. She said that second career writers need to be kind to themselves. Allow and honor the fact that you will need years to hone and develop the craft. (And also honor the fact that the craft itself requires years to explore and master.)

She also noted that it’s an adjustment for people who were probably very successful in their first careers. Second career writers often feel like we should be instantly good at writing because we are good at our first career. It’s a psychological leap to go from being at or near the top of a profession to the bottom of another one. We need to carve out the space and time to devote to this new act.

Yes. Exactly. This is why I’ve felt doubt about my writing career. Suddenly I’m on the bottom again, after achieving professional success in my library career. And that’s okay. That was the other big theme that the conference itself reminded me repeatedly – writing takes time. It takes time to write novels, it takes time to build writing communities, it takes time to learn the craft. (And as regular readers know, I wrestle with issues of time a lot.) I’ve felt like I’m behind but really, I’m exactly where I need to be on the learning curve.

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