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  • Writer's pictureKristina Atkins

When You’ve Been Writing for a Decade and Still Aren’t Published


See, I started writing in middle school by–I kid you not–free form role-playing on AOL. Yes, I’m that big of a nerd. But I loved it. I loved making characters and diving into their stories (always my favorite part of books, whether reading or writing), and over time I learned to love crafting my prose. My sophomore year of high school I signed up for Creative Writing as an elective. I was far from the most gifted writer in the class, but my teacher, Evelyn Hall, saw something in me. What exactly it was, I’m not sure. Talent? Debatable. Passion? Very possible. That innate weirdness all writers have? Most definitely. She encouraged me to apply for the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities Summer Honors Program (say that three times fast). I made the wait list, and by the summer, I’d been bumped up and was able to attend. It was the best five weeks of my high school years, studying from great South Carolina writers such as Blythe Starkey and George Singleton. I continued writing after–short stories and, yes, role-playing–for my remaining grade school years.

Then I got to college. And stopped writing. Mostly. I wrote a crapton of essays and I even took one semester of Creative Writing. I picked up other weirdo hobbies, like improv comedy and minoring in Italian because I thought it was pretty. (This is a completely legitimate reason to study a foreign language, imo.) I learned to snowboard, and worked as a bookkeeper with my super relevant Linguistics degree, and got married, and never wrote creatively.

So then, almost a year after graduation, I wrote that totally fun and totally garbage Iliad fanfiction … and it felt like a homecoming. Except home was a little bit different, the rooms different sizes and colors than I remembered, the doors in slightly different locations. In high school, I only thought of short stories. I told people I doubted I’d ever write a novel. But suddenly, at 23, I could think of nothing but novel ideas. It was writing all over again, and yet it was still new. I rediscovered my hunger for creating characters and telling their stories. And I wanted to improve. I wanted to be published.

I’m starting to ramble, and I hope you’ll forgive me for waxing nostalgic. I used to dream of writing this anniversary post and saying, “AND I NOW HAVE A BOOK CONTRACT!” Or at least saying, “AND NOW I HAVE AN AGENT!” Neither of these are true. I’m still writing in obscurity. I have fewer blog readers than I used to. Earlier this year, when I thought about this post, the idea that I wouldn’t have grand news to share on my ten year anniversary depressed me. But now I’m here, and I’m okay. Because you know what? It’s been a great decade.

I got my MFA, which was amazing and I wish I could get another one. I’ve written four books and I’m working on my fifth. I finally gathered enough courage to write high fantasy, my original literary love. I shifted from YA to adult. I love writing bloody things. I embraced my inner weirdness far more than I’d previously dared to. I’ve made amazing friends who feel like long-lost family members. I’ve been to writing conferences, and critiqued books, and attended writing retreats. I’ve collected a decade of literary memories that I cherish.

So yes, I’ve been writing for ten years and I’m still not published. But you know what? That’s okay. Because every day, I get a little better at writing. And every day, I fall in love with it a little more. Writing is effing hard, but that’s why I love it so much. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth a decade of work. One day I will hold my published book in my grubby little hands, and all the years of toil will feel like a dream. A dream I am grateful to be living right now.

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