When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. Not when I grew up, but right then. I wrote constantly. I had a blue binder filled with lined, 3-hole-punched paper on which I outlined my stories and wrote them. Longhand. In cursive.
I finished my first novel when I was eleven. The story was about a young girl surviving the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. It wasn't very long—about 15,000 words, if I have to guess. It also wasn't very good. I cringe now to even think of it. But it was a rather big achievement for me.
As I got older, my dreams of being a published author began to fade. I became interested instead in biochemistry and genetics. Influenced largely by Dana Scully and Clarice Starling, I embarked on a career in biotechnology, which I pursued doggedly for well over a decade.
Yet I kept writing. I journaled about my life and thoughts. I made up myriad stories and wrote them down. I enjoyed brief fame as a live romance writer, creating stories in chat rooms with real-time feedback. I blogged about issues I felt were important. I even started another novel or six.
I decided, finally, to switch careers and enter the literary world. And yet, I shied away from writing. I became an editor, focused on making other people's writing shine. I was never confident in my own voice. The words that came out were never quite right, never exactly what I had meant to say or how I had meant to say it. Honestly, I still feel this way, about everything I publish, including this blog.
So I was quite surprised to be offered a job as a writer. It was a small contract position, writing short pieces for educational purposes. Yet it was writing, and someone was paying me to do it.
The thought settled on me when I sent in my first piece: I am a professional writer. Wow!
It was as if my eleven-year-old self had skipped up to me and given me a big hug. My current self is uncertain, unconfident, and downright confused as to why anyone would pay me to put words on paper. But that girl who wrote stories in a blue binder between classes? She's absolutely thrilled. She's always known we'd end up here. She knows we'll do even greater things.
That girl was asked, in sixth grade, to write a goal on a star to be hung in her classroom. She wrote, "Get a book published." Well, young Elizabeth, we're well on our way. Good job!