It was a lovely summer afternoon. I visited my mum and between sips of coffee, I took out one thing after another from my old “memories” box. I wasn’t surprised when I found my old dusty notebooks, pieces of unfinished stories and fairy tales.
On a cover of an old notebook, I read: “Diary or a novel?” My heart jumped.
It was like touching a forgotten treasure or diamonds with rust (I love that song by Joan Baez).
My beginnings as a writer!
It was always there, deep in my heart — a desire to write. So, I wrote. I wrote for the only person in the world. For myself. I wrote because I loved it. It was easy “just to write” as a child or teenager because I had zero expectations at that time. I recalled the feeling I had when I was sitting on a bench, holding an old blue notebook, wearing ripped jeans and an oversized sweater.
I was a writer when I was ten, fifteen, twenty. And what is more — I was a published (!) author. I wrote for a local newspaper — specifically for a section dedicated to young authors. They sent me 50 crowns per article. Sometimes I earned 200 crowns a month because I wrote something every week. It was enough to buy a new T-shirt, a coffee or gas for my mum’s car.
What else did I produce? Fairy tales as a Christmas gift for my teddy bears. I created just one issue of a magazine. The content; a report about a grenade from World War two which my friend found in the forest, political opinion, crosswords, and an interview with a man who remembered World War two. I did it because I loved it. Later, I started my first blog about history.
Excitement. Again. And again.
Then, when I was 21, I wrote something “longer”, maybe a short novel. My friend read it. “It is not good,” he told me. “You are not a writer.” I understood. Another friend told me that my texts are naïve. (Joan Baez, I love your verse: “My poetry was lousy you said” in Diamonds and Rust.)
Then I stopped writing.
Why? I thought that it was a fruitless effort and I was just wasting my time and energy. I put my notebook and pen away because some of my friends did not share my enthusiasm. It has something to do with self- confidence you may say. Yes, I agree. It took me some time to figure it out.
I concentrated on my studies — I studied political sciences. It meant reading and writing a lot. During these years I killed my passion for writing “stories”. Instead of adolescent emotional things I wrote about the Cold War, the transition to democracy and political systems in Africa.
Time to time, I bought myself a new notebook. One never knows.
When I lost (after three months of work) my first job as a junior analyst at the time of the economic recession in 2008, I started my career as a freelance journalist and copywriter. I couldn’t find another job! Writing fond me again. I have been working with words again. I have been writing. Good. But still, it was far away from “my writings”.
Years later, when I was thirty-two, I found myself staring in the window of a bookshop visualizing my novel among the other writers’ books. It hurt. It hurt because I realized that if I wanted my book to be there, I would have to sit down and write.
The story began again. I bought a notebook and pen and I tried to write. It was hard. Very hard. My head was full of doubts. The results were uncertain. I knew only one thing — I must keep going. I must do it for myself.
These questions visited me frequently and almost knocked me down:
- Will I finish it?
- Will it be a good story?
- Will I find a publisher?
- Will I hold my book in my hands?
- Will someone read it?
I worked on my first novel for more than a year. It was hard job to write the first 80 pages. Then I fell in love with my writings again and I started to create a writing routine: coffee, one sip, excitement.
I finished my novel, put it away for three months and then rewrote it. Editing is tough work because you must delete your own words and you must write new ones; you must read your text again and again and then full stop.
While I was waiting for the answer from a publishing house where I sent my first story to, I realized that I was missing something.
A new story appeared in my mind, so I started to write again — a new wave of excitement. I almost forgot about my first manuscript.
After another three months I received a call from the publisher.
“We like it.”
What was the lesson I learned?
Remember: You are a writer. The only thing you must do is to sit down and write — no matter what.
Just sit and write
- Every word, every sentence counts.
- You can edit a bad page but not an empty page.
- Choose a story you fell in love with.
- Reserve your time for writing in your schedule.
- Writing is first, editing is second. Do not mix them up.
- Create your own writing routine (coffee, candles, music…).
- Believe in yourself.
- Never give up before you finish it.