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 YA author Tara Kelly revealing hers…
Guest post by Tara Kelly
I’ve been writing stories since I can remember. I was a head-in-the-clouds child, always living inside my imagination. Dreaming about a different world. A better world. My adult self realizes this was my escape, my way of coping with a pretty brutal childhood. I could talk about how writing helped me survive abuse. Being bullied. The wrong friends. I could talk about college and how my writing got torn to shreds by a couple professors. One of them even told me to just…give it up. And I did for a while. I figured I’d never be good enough to be published…so why bother to try for it? (Clearly I did bother.) But this post isn’t about my past. It’s about the now.
I have this funny relationship with writing. It can be thankless. It smacks me around. Breaks me down. Makes me feel exposed, vulnerable, and insecure. But it also brings me joy. Keeps me going. Gets me excited about this strange thing we call life. I’m forever chasing brilliance. The killer line. An unforgettable character. A timeless story. I want to make others feel how my favorite writers make me feel. Changed. Inspired. Ecstatic. Broken. Basically—I set high expectations for myself. So I edit every line I write as I write it. I kill way too many darlings. I overthink…everything. You know what I realized this year? I need to stop doing that. My quest for perfection—to please those who’ve made negative comments throughout my life—is killing my joy. I’ve let those people kill my joy for way too long.
My writing career isn’t where I’d hoped it would be after releasing two books. In fact, this last year has been especially painful. That’s not to say good things haven’t happened. Hello? People, other than my family and friends, have read my stories. These characters living in my head—who I have very little control over by the way—are now living in other people’s heads. I’ve gotten letters that almost made me cry (okay, maybe I cried a little) because some kid out there finally felt understood. My first book inspired a group of kids to spend their summer vacation making a movie. How amazing is that? This is why I write—to inspire. To connect. To learn.
On the other hand, my first book didn’t make it to paperback. I kept hearing that “numbers” thing a lot—and not in a good way. The book I spent three years writing didn’t sell. All of my books mean the world to me, but this book…this book is personal. This story is the one I’ve been trying to tell since I was a teenager.
I’m not going to lie—I was disappointed. And then I was angry. And then I was sad and heartbroken. Name a step, I probably went through it. Then I realized I needed to move on. I needed to throw myself into an entirely new project. A project that made me uncomfortable. Tested me in every way possible. Something completely different from my previous books. Those risks I’ve always wanted to take? I needed to start taking them. Straight up? I needed to stop questioning my worth as a writer and start fucking writing.
Am I succeeding? Well…I’m a work in progress. I’m making steps every day. Every time I force myself to keep going, to not obsess over some description or whether or not my MC is coming across as a jerk. Screw it. Maybe my MC is a jerk. This is her journey. Let her figure that out on her own. Let the ugly out, baby, and let it out hard. I’m capable of so much more. I’ve got a lot of potential left in me.
And that book that didn’t sell? The one that was so personal? I’m glad it didn’t sell. Yep. You read that right. GLAD. It wasn’t the story I wanted to tell, after all. It was too controlled. Too tight. Too afraid to go there. And now I have a second chance. A chance to give these characters the story they deserve. The voice they deserve. I can’t think of a better outcome than that.
The thing about writing for publication is…you get knocked down a lot. You face a lot of rejection. You have no idea what will happen once your book is out there—sometimes it takes off…sometimes it fades into nothing. Sometimes it’s just plain hard to find a reason to keep going. You have to love it. There’s just no way around that. This year I realized I love writing. I can talk about quitting. I can whine and moan about how unfair the industry can be all I want. I might even walk away for a little while. But I’m not going to stop, regardless of what happens next. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Professor.
Tara Kelly loves variety in life. In addition to being a YA author, she is a one-girl-band, a marketing manager, an editor, and a designer. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her ten guitars, her supercool bf, and a fluffy, orange cat named Maestro.
For more about Tara, visit thetaratracks.com
For Harmonic Feedback: harmonicfeedback.com
And for Amplified: amplifiedthebook.com