I have a confession to make – I’ve been faking it until I make it for some time now. My declarations of kicking it into gear were just words. Maybe because I knew by now I should be there. Maybe because I hoped, deep down, they would encourage me to do so. Not too long ago, I went through some stuff. That’s the truth. Nothing necessarily earth-shattering to some but enough to strip away everything I thought I knew, take me back down to the bottom and leave me flat on my back, wondering what in the heck happened. Then I got stomped while I was down when my Dad passed away unexpectantly.
Being in that position was new to me. I had always been the juggler and I was frankly, pretty good at it. If I set my sights on something very little could hold me back. If someone said I couldn’t do it, I did it twice and smiled as I walked by. I built much of my personality around my work, whatever that may be. I found pride in what I did. I was an overachiever with a killer work ethic. That was me and I loved every minute of it. I thrived in learning new things, pushing myself to know more, to do better, to be better. I juggled those balls of life like a boss. Except, this time, I got comfortable focusing on juggling those balls and forgot to watch for guided missiles at my back. Boom, just like that those balls hit the ground and scattered. No big deal. I’ve been through things before and I would always just pick all the balls back up and start juggling again. Except, this time, that didn’t happen. At all. Those little suckers went rolling into crevices and under rocks, down hills and underwater. Every time I’d pick one up the other one I was holding would go flying out of my hand and I’d have to go chasing it again. It was ridiculous.
They say you can’t go back and I learned that lesson but I also couldn’t go forward, not while all those little balls were still rolling away from me. So, I trudged over to each ball and picked it up reluctantly and tried again. And it fell again. I was writing but I found no joy in it. I had to make myself write the article. I had to make myself write the words. I thought joining a challenge would help. It didn’t. I thought joining a group would help. It didn’t. Day after day of words not written passed me by. I bought the Writer’s Market book. I opened it once. I did the interviews. They stayed safely on my recorder untouched. I tried to freelance and forced myself to write when too many days had gone by. I said I wanted to be a writer but I didn’t really do anything to make that a reality.
All of those times before there was something that always kicked in – a drive I can’t explain – a feeling I can’t describe. I waited on that, thinking if I just kept pushing it would eventually come. But it didn’t. Then I started wondering if it was ever going to come. Had I peaked already in my life? Had I juggled those balls for so long that I broke that drive? When should I give up? All of this had been going through my mind while I slogged through each day. How much longer could I keep this up?
Like a drowning person, I started looking for something to grab onto to keep myself afloat. That something turned out to be books. I challenged myself to read more and for the first time in a while, I met that challenge. Just like that, those books became a life vest. I couldn’t get enough. And each of the books I read spoke to me. I remembered why I love to write so much through those other authors’ words – because I want to make someone else feel the way I do when I read them. It took me back to the core of why I write and that is simply to tell stories. Then my mom called and asked if I wanted to take a quick trip. I worked it all out and jumped on the opportunity and found stepping away for a few days was exactly what I needed. I knocked out my first feature article and published it. I felt that little fire starting to sputter to life and fanned that baby with every ounce of my being trying to get it to light.
Then suddenly, last night, at 3 a.m. while I was sitting in the recliner, unable to sleep, eating Cherry Garcia and watching an action film, that flame ignited. I woke up this morning, not looking at everything I had to do as a chore but excited to do it. The first thing I did? Update my resume, pull my example pieces and pitch an article to a paying magazine for the first time. I spent the afternoon peopling with family friends. And now, as I finish this blog post, I’m going to step away, fix dinner and then return to this computer to write some more. Not because I feel like I should but because I want to. I actually can’t wait to.
All I could think this morning when I hit send on that pitch was “Damn. Finally. Now. Do the Thing.”
Michelle Leigh Miller is an independently published author, freelance writer, and blogger in Southeastern Ohio. Basically, she is just writing words.