While I can’t claim the title of this blog post is something I came up with (comedian Duncan Trussel said it first), it is very much my truth.

Being an introvert means you approach new people with shields up. There are a lot of reasons for that, but suffice to say you almost never have me at “hello.”

The tendency of introverts is to be introspective, to listen before talking, to keenly observe – all very valuable practices for a writer. From a social standpoint, however, the get-to-know-me process is glacially slow. There are some crazy people out there, and I don’t need to know them. Let my bodyguard handle it.

That’s why writing is such perfect work for me. I’ve always been one, but in 2019 I finally punched my stake into the ground and put my hand to writing fiction.

It had always been something I wanted to do. Even after years as a journalist and then as an advertising and marketing copywriter, I knew fiction was where I really wanted to be all along. It was a bit daunting, though, seeing as how I had to come up with a story that had a riveting beginning, a middle that kept the action clipping along, and a satisfying ending – all of which was longer than 1,000 words. Much longer.

I was used to taking facts and molding them into something that would take five minutes or much less to read. Now I was entering a world of sweeping narrative arcs, realistic dialogue instead of canned quotes, and the creation of characters that people hopefully cared about.

Actually, my previous writing experience turned out to be somewhat helpful. Book-length fiction is in some ways an expansion of the principles of good journalism and copywriting: Hook ‘em at the start. Keep ‘em reading. Wrap it up in a way that lets them know they haven’t wasted their time.

I have to admit that the first draft of my book was hilarious. Page upon page was cringey, cliche awfulness. Characters did and said things that defied logic. The dialogue was silly, stilted, drivel. Who would actually talk like that?

Let’s be honest, though: as a whole it was enough to make a writer give up.

But I stayed the course, mostly because every 10 pages or so there was a spark in the darkness – a sentence or phrase or two that offered just a hint of promise. I also took heart from what writer Anne Lamott says in her delightful writing instructional, Bird by Bird: “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.”

This I now know is true, and so I’m fixing it my writing, page by page, and I think it’s going okay. Not great, but just okay. But okay is enough for now. I know there will be a better draft after this one, and an even better one after that. And I’ll just keep going until I’m certain the writing is the very best I can do.

Fifteen years ago when I attended a writing workshop in Taos, New Mexico, one of the instructors encouraged me to continue writing, but qualified her assessment of my abilities with the phrase “raw talent.”

You know what that means. Sure, it’s possible to become a published author if you put in years of effort, but will you really do that?

The answer is yes. I am doing that and will continue to.

And you know what else? The people I met at that writing workshop – I loved them the moment I met them. We were all creative newbies, trying to do something very difficult, and we were passionate about doing it well. We got each other right away and helped each other as much as we could over the span of just a few days.

Somehow my bodyguard knew it was okay to grant them access. He stood back and welcomed them in.

Sometimes you just know when you find the right people. And my hope with my first book is to find the right readers who love stories about women who beat the odds, who dig deep and find resourcefulness they never knew they had to climb out of a very dark place.

If this sounds like you, my bodyguard will step aside and let you in. There’s a velvet VIP-section seat with your name on it, if you so choose. Hope to see you there.