True Confessions by Beth Camp

I’ve Always Wanted To Be A Writer. And Always Denied It

I remember staring at my bookcase crammed with books when I was in my 20s, and crying in despair because I knew that I would never write a book of my own. After a decade of working odd jobs through school, I found a career as an international banker. In my late 30s, I fell in love truly and married a man with light feet, a big heart, and absolute belief in me. We traveled. Once we had our cherished child, I returned to school for my masters and taught English at a community college. I loved working with these students – their journeys as convoluted as mine; their clear visions inspired me. I wrote between my commitments to others and during summers. Poetry. Flash fiction. Some published. Some not. A novel that yet lives in a drawer.
Why was that first novel so important? Because it showed me that I could truly tell a story. Those characters also helped me confront and exorcise something very painful – my childhood as the daughter of an alcoholic.
And then somehow, when I wondered if I would ever retire, my husband and I went on sabbatical, a glorious six-month trip to as many countries. I returned to work to discover my department had saved several noxious projects because, as they put it, nodding their heads as we sat in a tiny boardroom, that I completed projects like these so well. In that moment, I knew it was time to retire. What would I do – used to 70 hour weeks as a routine? Perhaps I would write.

So I took a creative writing class. The teacher, a little intimidated by my presence in the class, stood up on that first day to say she accepted any kind of a story except those that ran with gore. I was dismayed, for I had hoped to work on my not-yet-completed novel, Mothers Don’t Die. Well, I thought, I might as well write about mermaids. And so I did. Over the course of the next ten weeks, ten stories emerged, teaching me anew that creativity is not limited by subject. After the class was over, one of those stories lost the mermaid and morphed into my first book, Standing Stones, and led to a two month research trip to Scotland.

I’m now immersed in that delightful process that sometimes seems unending for Book 3 in the current series: Write, research, write, edit, write, research, edit, and write again. Send out to beta readers, then write and edit and, finally, publish. My characters and their struggles in the middle of the 19thCentury are endlessly fascinating.
Why am I telling you this story? To say that dreams do not go away when you turn 40, or 50, or older.
Dreams shape who we are. And, we know we are writers – even when we cannot see quite how to achieve our dreams. I began writing seriously the year I turned 64. That was 8 years ago, and I haven’t stopped. Writing shapes each morning and anchors the rest of my life. Sometimes I wonder how long I will be able to write, if my muse will decide that SHE wants to retire. Or I worry that this story I’m working on will never be finished. But in the morning, the keyboard calls, and I write.
The lesson I hope to share with you? That we writers, albeit very, very different, need to pursue a commitment to our dreams in a very tangible way. Yep, butt in chair. We each will find our own path, writing journals, story boards, NaNoWriMo, or simply writing every day, or 5 days out of 7.
Participating in this wonderful online community of ROW80, offers us another way to support our writing through a process of setting and committing to very specific goals — and reporting our progress. We are accountable to ourselves and, in a rather unique way, to each other.
May 2016 be the year you write that project that emerges from your deepest heart.
~*~

8 comments

  1. Oh my goodness, Beth, I cannot fully express at the moment how much this post has knocked me off my pins. Thank you for sharing your journey. You have given me a lot to think about, and a deep feeling of hope for my own journey.

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth. Being a part of ROW80 has helped much with my focus, so much that the writing now is bedrock for each day. And of course, we should have hope. What inspired this article was a comment that perhaps all ROW80 writers were 30-something and balancing work with writing. That shoe didn’t fit! No matter where we are in our writing, we all face challenges. For me, the biggest challenge was could I truly believe in my own writing. And so we persevere.

  2. how. . .how . . . did a mermaid morph into your standing stones!!!!!! A.maz.ing morph:)
    We started writing about the same time I never thought I’d get into print either. just goes to show:)

    1. And don’t we still have stories to tell, Alberta! I’m glad you are writing and part of this lovely online community. May we continue to be surprised by what comes next.

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