The First 350 Words

November 28, 2016 was a significant day for many reasons. After months of exhausting job hunting and what we affectionately called “funemployment,” my husband started a new full-time job. We had steady income and health insurance on the way. Most importantly, Andrew had something to do during the day, and he didn’t feel like a big purposeless lump. The entire day was one long, cathartic breath of fresh air for those reasons alone.

More personally, I was at last an aspiring author, alone in my home for hours and hours. My best friend was busy at work, and I had gobs of playtime. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call it an awakening.

The energy coursed through me like electricity...tangibly so. I literally ran to the bathroom and back when I had to pee, just to sit back down a bit sooner and continue writing. I wrote 350 little words: a draft prologue to my first novel...the first words I ever wrote as a “career” writer. The story spilled out of me, and I could barely contain my excitement.

Though the Gilmore Girls revival was out and ready for consumption, I opted for a Brandon Sanderson lecture via YouTube about the Pyramid of Abstraction. I further developed my characters, and was delighted by 2-3 new story ideas that came simply from the freedom of space and time.

I snacked constantly, and quickly determined that fatty, buttery homemade chex mix had no business in my home so long as I continue to work 12 feet away from the kitchen. Holy compulsive eating!

Butter and all, it was an invigorating, inspiring, healing day. I believed that I could write something good. I believed that I could make a career out of writing full-time, even if it takes years to sell a story. Perhaps the most significant insight was that I loved to write. Until those first 350 words, I was only guessing. I had delayed writing out of fear. What if I didn’t like it? What if the words didn’t come? And someday, I know they won’t come so easily. Some days, I won’t want to write. But I know that there is a love of words within me now, and I know that I love to create stories. That first day is enough to fuel a lifetime of commitment to this crazy, unexpected path that I’ve landed on.

Of course, when I looked at those 350 words the following day, they were hilariously bad. I’d left out essential information about the setting and context, and used the phrase “he smiled gently” an embarrassing number of times. There were adverbs everywhere, and I immediately started typing away to repair the damage. But I laughed as I dove into the mess, and I didn’t fault myself for taking the first brave step. As a recovering perfectionist, that was a victory in itself.

I hope that you have had moments of joy and excitement in your writing journey, as well as moments of laughter and face-palming. I hope that the joyful feeling isn’t foreign, and if nothing else, that you know you love what you do. Love is a perfect reason to push through the obstacles and keep moving forward, one step (or word) at a time.