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Turning Points: Guest Post by Erin Bowman

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This guest post is part of the Turning Points blog series here on distraction no. 99—in which I asked authors the question: What was your turning point as a writer? Here is Erin Bowman, debut author of Taken and one of my Anticipated Debuts for April 2013, sharing her turning point…

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Guest post by Erin Bowman

TakenI have always been a storyteller. When I couldn’t write, I rambled—imagining epic adventures for the family dog, the squirrels in the backyard, you name it—and then when I could write, I was an addict.

I went to writing camp over the summers during middle school (yes, really). I took some creative writing classes in high school and then minored in it in college. Even after graduating, when I started working as a web designer, I still wrote obsessively on the side. But despite all those years of writing—while I penned countless short stories and filled notebook after notebook with poetry and prose—I never once completed a novel.

I tried. Repetitively.

I’d have a spark of an idea and feverishly type a chapter or two. I’d revise and polish those two chapters until they shined. And then I’d lose interest. The manuscript would sit, lonely and forgotten on my hard drive, next to dozens of other abandoned projects. That “writing” folder was a sad graveyard of half-baked story ideas.

I liked to tell myself that this happened habitually because none of my ideas were The One. That, or I needed to mull a concept over more thoroughly before I was capable of writing chapter three. Or even if I did mull it over, I’d never have the time to craft it into the version of the story I had in my head so why fight an impossible battle? There just wasn’t enough time. After all, I was busy with school/work/wedding planning/holidays/friends/family/life.

The hard truth was this: It wasn’t that I didn’t have the time, but that I didn’t want to make the time. All the excuses were just a way to satisfy my conscience.

A month before my wedding in 2009, I lost my design job during a series of company-wide layoffs. I was devastated and shocked and felt like a total failure. Deep down, I knew I’d be able to secure another job, but that layoff really shook my confidence and the timing couldn’t have been worse. (Seriously! Right before my wedding!)

I was Eeyore that first week of unemployment, all doom and gloom.

But then something funny happened. In the quiet hours when my husband (then-fiancé) was at work, and in between my job hunting and last minute wedding planning, a new novel idea fell into my lap.

I wanted to write it, only this time, I told myself if I started, I wasn’t allowed to quit. I was getting married and eventually I’d have a new job, and with this new stage of my life, I decided I was also going to be a new type of writer: one who saw projects through. I was going to finish that novel no matter what.

So I started drafting. I got married. I found a new job. I fell back into my typical 50-hour workweek. We moved and suddenly I had an hour long commute each way.

But I kept writing.

And writing.

And I finished that novel.

I revised it. I started another. I finished and revised that. I was busier than ever (especially with that hellish commute), and yet I was writing at volumes I’d never before come close to.

At my new job, the creative director ran a book club. Every month she assigned the design and dev team an industry-related read, and then we’d all discuss it over lunch. I distinctly remember everyone reacting strongly to this quote about dreams and personal projects: “There is always enough time if you spend it right.” The co-authors of the book, Rework, went on to theorize that if you don’t have enough time, than maybe your personal project isn’t really your dream. And that’s totally okay if it’s not. Time is precious and you should absolutely spend your free hours doing the things you love most. But coincidentally, you forfeit the right to complain and mope about not reaching your dreams if you don’t actively pursue them.

I think this resonated with me in part because it was so plainly stated, but also because I’d learned this very truth in the months following my job loss. That unfortunate event made me move forward with redefined goals. I was unflinchingly honest with myself. I promised to stop making excuses and hold myself accountable. I would finish drafting a novel because I was making it a priority.

That pivotal moment came rather early in my writing career. Heck, it came long before I even considered pursuing publication. Back then, I had no clue what an agent did or what a query letter was and the only ARC I knew of was the America Red Cross. Sometimes I wish the enlightenment came even sooner, but in the end, I’m just glad it came. Period. Because once writing was a priority, it was amazing how much time I could carve out of an already busy day.

Last week my debut novel, TAKEN, released from HarperTeen. I can confidently say that had I not lost my job in 2009, I would never have written this book. When the idea for the story surfaced, it was so complex—packed with twists and turns—that even having a finished novel under my belt and knowing I was capable of typing through to the end, didn’t make the thought of drafting TAKEN any less daunting.

But I’d learned my lesson about goals and persistence, and I knew I could write the book if I made it a priority.

So I opened a new document. And I started typing.

Erin’s debut novel, Taken, came out last week from HarperTeen!


erinbowman_authorphotoErin Bowman used to tell stories visually as a web designer. Now a full-time writer, she relies solely on words. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband, and when not writing she can often be found hiking, commenting on good typography, and obsessing over all things Harry Potter. TAKEN is her first novel.

Visit her at www.embowman.com to find out more. 

Follow @erin_bowman on Twitter.


There’s more in the Turning Points series. Catch up with any posts you may have missed here.

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6 thoughts on “Turning Points: Guest Post by Erin Bowman

  1. Erin, thanks for sharing your behind the scenes story. Very inspiring. You’re right–if something is important to you, you will make time for it. PS. Looking forward to reading TAKEN!

  2. This reminds me of the line in the remake of KING KONG (2005) where Jack Driscoll has a chance to jump off a moving ship to return to his theatrical career, but doesn’t. He says to Carl Denham: “I love the theater.” Denham’s reply: “No, you don’t. If you did, you would have jumped.” Here’s to Erin for jumping!

  3. This Turning Point is so, so beautiful. It is also something that I was reflecting on with one of my best friends last night – so the timing is pretty spot on. I really think that I need to start committing to writing if I want to be a published writer. Allowing it to fall to the wayside in favor of other things isn’t always a good thing. I need to start setting aside time to write – and I’m definitely starting NOW.

  4. I particularly enjoyed this post. Having recently become an Author myself I was able to really identifiy with some of the things Erin mentioned. I too had always been the type to write here and there, filling notebooks with poetry or story ideas, starting books only to finish a few chapters before growing bored, or finding that I “didn’t have enough time”. It wasn’t until I also hit a hard spot in life that I decided to really pursue the dream of being a writer. Once that decision was made, I also found the time, despite working 50 hours a week (as a paralegal) and having hour long commutes. Since that time I have been blessed to find so many inspirations from the great thinkers and builders of history that show EXACTLY what Erin is talking about. That express the knowledge that if you put your mind to something, and you never allow doubt to slow your momentum, you can achieve anything. This idea was put most simply, but also quite beautifully by Henry Ford when he said “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

  5. This is so inspiring for me because I am currently working on a journalism degree and feel very nervous about whether or not this career will work out. Like you, I love to write, though my writing is news/non-fiction. It’s inspiring to read about your process in terms of how you felt before finishing your first novel and how you came to finally finish it. I wish you the best of luck! I will definitely check out TAKEN!

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