Be the writer you are

After years of struggling to write children’s picture books, I had a head full of characters with nothing to do, a couple of stories that just didn’t feel “quite right” yet, a dream that I didn’t want to let go of, and no imagination—a vital component when writing fiction. I decided that my dream needed a re-vision, of sorts…perhaps I should try writing in a different genre, a different style, a different anything that would help me find my niche. I had nothing to lose by trying something new. It’s not like I was getting anywhere, afterall. I didn’t want to look back someday and realize I’d been too stubborn to recognize the right path. I had to make a change.

It was scary. A lot of questions swirled through my head as I struggled with the unknown. Was I giving up or was I just facing the truth? Would the truth mean I had to let go of my dream? What was my dream anyway…my true dream? Was it to write children’s books or was it simply to write? I had to wrap my mind around that.

The truth is, whenever I tried to write a “story” it just fell flat or fell apart. Maybe I didn’t have a “Twinkle, Twinkle” or a “Potter” in me.  Did that mean I couldn’t find some way to write something worth sharing? I had to find out.

I made a decision. I stopped TRYING to write and, instead, simply ALLOWED myself to write. That’s when everything changed. Just when I’d given up on writing fiction for children, I was suddenly flooded with ideas, characters, and stories for children. Most of them fell flat and went nowhere, but it was different somehow. I had an imagination. I had breakthroughs. I wrote in ways I’d never been able to before. It was amazing! I was growing as a writer and I could tell. New life was breathed into my writing…and into me.

So what changed? I ALLOWED myself to write in the way that felt natural to me…poetry and rhyme. I had shelved that idea long ago. According to experts, publishers no longer want poetry, they no longer want rhyming books for children because most writers don’t do it well. Better to focus on what publishers want if you want to be published, right? Well, in my case, no. But I had to learn that the hard way. I believe it’s better to actually write something satisfying, even if it’s never published, than to never write anything. My audience will be a little older and my books may or may not be picture books, but I have written poems that are complete and satisfying.

Am I a poet now? I’m starting to embrace the idea that I am a writer and that I write poetry. Still, I hesitate to say that I am a poet. That’s for others to decide. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true. I haven’t earned the right to call myself a poet yet. My poems are more like stories, perhaps due to all the years of struggling to write stories. And they are more transparent than many people expect poetry to be. Even before I switched to poetry, I would often say, “I don’t do deep.” Maybe that will change as I grow and improve, but I like the transparency of my poems. It fits me.

Finding my niche didn’t mean that everything would magically fall into place. I still have to work at my writing. I still have stretches when I don’t have a fresh idea to write about. But when the idea comes, I allow it to develop. It may or may not rhyme. It may or may not be for children.  That’s okay. I am open to whatever it is.

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