Follow Your Dreams – When Did You Become a Writer?
Guest Post by Judith Anne Desjardins
I want to begin by saying I am very proud to be a member of the writing brother/sisterhood. There is nothing as exciting to me as to be in a roomful of writers – whether it is at Book Expo America, an awards event at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, or a local book fair. There’s something about the collective energy of these bright minds, with their imagination and creativity. These risk takers who have had the courage and discipline to sit down and write and rewrite, day after day, year after year, until their manuscripts are completed.
Writers are brave people engaged in a usually lonely pursuit. Most of us write because we must write. We are compelled to write – like dancers must dance, musicians must play, singers must sing, composers must compose, artists must create.
A writer is a” creative” – no matter what the genre. That in itself is exciting because there are so many genre for writing. A writer is also a historian of sorts. No matter what the genre, a writer is reflecting his or her observations, feelings, imagination, skills, philosophy at a particular point in time, in a particular society. Each writer’s voice connects to the universal collective of past, present, and future writers. Writers nourish the hearts, minds and imaginations of society. Writers are entertainers, provocateurs, sometimes agents of change.
It is both a gift and a burden to be a writer. The gift is the joy of expression, creativity, harnessing and releasing your spirit in a flow of words; the satisfaction of ideas well stated and inspiration expressed. The burden of the writer is the time and discipline required to turn out a finished product and the challenge of getting it published and properly marketed. There is also an element of risk. Writers put themselves on the line, open to public scrutiny. It takes courage and determination to be a published writer.
As with any other creative profession, a writer must become familiar with and resilient to rejection, criticism, and loss of control. Financial success is dependent upon the approval of other people, and that can be discouraging, heart breaking and challenging. It is a vulnerable position.
Ultimately, writers must take control of their own destinies and pull strength from within. They must believe in their gifts, their stories, and their missions.
As a writer, one way I have found to pull strength from within is to reflect on how long I have been a writer – when I wasn’t even aware of it. Although I did not write my first published book until late in life, on days of self-doubt it is a comfort to I realize that I have been writing my whole life. It was my mother who started me on the path. One form of punishment and discipline she used was making me write. If I did something wrong, she would have me write a statement about my bad behavior 100, 200…….500 times. “I will not talk back to my mother.” “I will not lose my shoes when I go out to play.” “I will not leave an open jar with praying mantis eggs under the kitchen sink.” “I will not hide the tuna sandwich with onions in the trash can.”
This discipline did not mean anything to me at the time, except that it was boring and tedious. I found ways to finish it quickly, without thinking about what I was writing. Rows of “I” written down the entire page, followed by “will not,” followed by the offense. But what it did do was put a pencil in my hand and require me to write words on a piece of paper. This was quite a feat for a tomboy who preferred to play outside and was not a reader.
The first evidence of self-initiated writing was a sentence I wrote about age 6. I wrote it on a magazine cover and found it recently. The sentence reflected how I was feeling about my older brother. It said, “ is a prat.” I laughed when I read it because it should have said, “brat.” I had never learned phonics and was a terrible speller. This wasn’t a good beginning for a budding writer, but it showed one thing. Intuitively, I used writing to express my feelings, to connect with my Self.
By the time I was in 5th grade, I again put a pencil in my own hands and dared to leave notes around the house for my parents, searching for answers to unspeakable questions: “Do you love me? Yes, no, maybe.”
In 5th grade I also dared to write about the anger I was feeling toward my mother. When I think about it now I realize that it was probably fear – that something might happen to her and she might die. Those were scary thoughts for a young girl. I wrote my anger on the inside jacket of my bible and left it on my desk, hoping she would find it and talk to me. She did find it and it turned out to be a bonding event for both of us. She was very understanding and told me about something she had done to her own father when she was young and angry with him.
By high school, I was giving my parents and brother lists of outfits I modeled and asking them to choose the best outfit for me to wear to school the following day. In college, I fell in love with the “social histories” about clients and was drawn to the profession of social work, where writing lengthy family histories is an important contribution to the treatment team’s understanding of the client.
Again, when I was in my 30’s and asking God to come into my life and help me find and heal my Self, I began journaling, recording my dreams, my prayers, and documenting the scripture that Spirit gave me – a practice I maintain to this day.
Throughout my career as a licensed clinical social worker, I wrote scientific papers about techniques for counseling cancer patients and their families, using client dreams to guide the therapeutic relationship, and a holistic approach to substance abuse recovery – which I presented to professionals in the United States and Canada.
When I was ready to write my first book, a process which took fifteen years, I was drawing on a lifetime of experience with writing. I realized that I had to trust myself, my voice. I had to take the plunge and believe in myself.
These reflections on my life experiences with writing have emboldened and renewed me on the days when writing is tough and discouraging. They have given me courage on the days when I doubt myself or put a review copy in the mail or enter a writing contest. Writing is a vehicle for Self-expression. It allows me to make observations about my time on earth and the lessons I have learned. It gives me a deep sense of satisfaction and peace.
As fellow writers, when you are discouraged or doubt the journey, I encourage you to review your own history with writing and revel in the awareness that you receive. The bottom line is this: Writing is your gift. It comes from deep inside you. It is an expression of who you are. Don’t let anyone discourage you. Don’t give up when you doubt yourself. It is your destiny, your challenge. Believe in yourself. Keep writing and moving forward. Ask for help. Don’t stop until you achieve your dreams. Blessings to you!
Judith Anne Desjardins is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a Board Certified Diplomat in Clinical Social Work, and a Master Social Work Addiction Counselor. As an educator, she has taught nationally and in Canada, and has maintained a thirty-three year holistic private psychotherapy practice. Her book Creating A Healthy Life and Marriage; A Holistic Approach: Body, Mind, Emotions and Spirit has won 16 book awards and is available on Amazon.com and her website: www.spirithousepub.com Being raised in a military family and traveling extensively gave her an appreciation for all cultures and all the world’s religions.