I am a writer.
It took me a while to be able to say that without cringing or feeling sheepish or following it up with, “Well sort of.” But now I can own it, in all its vague, not-yet-fully-formed glory.
Two years ago this week, I sat down in my principal’s office at the school where I’d been teaching for eight years and told her I was leaving education. The last day of school would be my last last day. I was going to be a writer. I finished out my last few months of teaching with one eye on my students and one eye on my idealistic future, on the journal of ideas I’d made and the scenes I’d typed during my lunch period for the young adult novel I wanted to write. When that final bell rang in June and I’d cleaned out my classroom, an expanse of time and freedom and creativity unknown before stretched out in front of me. I felt both ecstatic and guilty over my good fortune, wondering if I deserved this gift.
The first three months of my new life were spent less in writing and more in reorganizing. I shifted closet space to accommodate the boxes of teaching materials that I probably didn’t need anymore but was not ready to discard, turned my office into a writing space that I hoped would both inspire and calm, and created a daily schedule for my time. (When you’ve lived your life according to bells for thirteen years, you crave the structure of a time table.) But the hardest shift to make was what to call myself. Teacher had not just been my profession; for more than a decade, it was my identity.
Those first few months after leaving the classroom, I labeled myself in many ways—“teacher” (accidentally, when caught off guard, feeling the heat rise to my cheeks when I realized it wasn’t true anymore), “writer” (which brought a different kind of embarrassment—one of phony claims and pretentiousness), “between jobs” (this just made me roll my eyes, it sounded so falsely down-and-out), and “taking some time off” (which seemed to suggest that I might be mentally unstable—was I?). I managed to stop just short of telling people I was “finding myself” but that might have been the truest answer at the time. I was finding myself. And there were pieces of me in some very surprising places.
When I embarked on my writing adventure, I was sure that finishing my YA novel would be my first priority, but in the summer after I left the classroom, I found myself writing poems and making long lists of story ideas and posting to my blog. I had a lot of conflicting feelings that I needed to work through about leaving teaching, and my blog became an outlet for them. I still get a lump in my throat when I read “Subconscious Healing”, which I wrote in July of 2012. It shows so much about what I was going through, more than I even realized at the time.
I knew I was veering off my set path, but I was ok with it. I told my husband that this was my summer vacation and I would get serious about my novel again at the end of August, when I would normally be going back to work. Then, on August 31, 2012, I woke up early, jumped out of bed, ran to my computer, and typed for the next two hours. But what I wrote had nothing to do with my YA book. It turned out to be the beginning of a horror novel that would consume all my attention for the next four months before sliding sluggishly into that swamp of “stuck”. My own private slush pile.
Still, that one unfinished and unexpected horror story led to more pieces that I did finish. Now, after publishing four short stories in that genre, it seems I may have a talent for the creepy stuff, a talent that unnerves my husband and amuses my family. These days, no one knows quite what to expect of me. I think they’re all just waiting to see what I’ll do next.
So what will that be? I’ll tell you my plans and, even though I’m ten days late, let’s go ahead and call them resolutions. This year I hope to:
- Finish that young adult novel that I started more than two years ago.
- Continue to work on my poetry and horror stories when time permits.
- Begin writing some of my teaching stories before it’s too late and they slip from my memory.
- Work on building a platform for my writing.
I’ve already started on all of these. Back in November, I knocked out 50,000 words of my YA book during NaNoWriMo. Since then it’s been marinating, waiting for me to come back to it, which I plan to do next month. In the first week of the new year I submitted some poems and flash fiction pieces for publication. Fly, my darlings! Fly! Fly! I also wrote down (finally, after carrying it in my memory for fourteen years) one of my favorite teaching stories. You can read it here. If you’re squeamish, you might want to sit down first.
And, today, I worked on goal number four. I created this sweet new blog space from which to share my writing life with the world.
I’ve got nothing against The Black Cat Diaries. I’ve loved that little blog and will probably still post to it now and again. But when I started that blog, I was still a teacher, not a writer. I mean, I was a writer, because I was writing, but I didn’t feel like one. Now, finally, I do. I am a writer. I know it. I accept it. And, through this forum, I want to share my writing experience with you.
Now that you know my goals for 2014, you can help keep me on track. But… I hope you’ll still let me stray a little bit now and then. After all, there may be a few more pieces of myself that I need to find.
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