open, writing

Step 279 and Counting

The number is actually higher since not every step I’ve taken resulted in a blog post!

Step 1: Create a website and write the first post
In preparation for my three month sabbatical, I decided to start a blog to keep track of what I experienced and learned during my intentional time away from work. I knew I didn’t want my sabbatical to become an extended vacation — I wanted to be more focused than that, so I thought writing publicly might help. Prior to that, I had never written publicly before. I had no idea if anyone would read my posts or care what I had to say. I felt vulnerable and strange creating the blog, but once I got started, I didn’t stop.

Next step: Be authentic
I was upfront and honest right away. I shared my struggles with how to define myself when I wasn’t working. I wrote about quilts I created and the meaning I found in the work. However, it wasn’t until I got a call from my doctor introducing the possibility of infertility that I really started to express my deep feelings and struggles in faith. I wasn’t completely upfront at first — I was intentionally vague because I wasn’t ready to share everything with the world. However, I wasn’t vague at all about my feelings or my relationship with God. I had no idea that how much this phone call and resulting experiences would impact the future of my writing.

Next step: Leave my job
I learned a lot when I resigned from my last job. I had been a youth minister for 14 years and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. By leaving that job and finding a new one, I learned to trust myself a little more. I learned that I’m more than my job title. I learned that I can take risks and trust that everything will work out. By leaving my job, I gave myself an opportunity to grow in ways I didn’t know were possible. I feel stronger and more confident — traits needed for further risks to come, I’m sure.

Next step: Write for a broader audience
In addition to managing programs and lots of other tasks at my new job, I also manage all the marketing and communications, which includes the biweekly newsletter. After being there several months, I was given the opportunity to write the main article, which was exciting and terrifying, as most new things are. I was surprised and encouraged by the feedback I received. I’ve also written a couple blog posts for the school as well as another main article for the newsletter. Although it’s a different audience and topic, I’m taking advantage of my work setting to let my writing be seen by people who don’t read my personal blog.

Step 232: Considered the possibility of writing a book
After hearing a sermon that really spoke to me I came home and wrote about it. In that writing I came to see more clearly how my journey with infertility has really impacted my writing. I don’t always write about that particular topic, but having that come into my life early in my “public” writing life helped shape the way I write about a variety of topics. After that post went live, I received this text from my brother: “Are you thinking about writing a book? Because I think that’s a great idea if you are at all interested.” I responded with, “Yes, eventually. But it’ll probably be a few years. I’ll need some distance and want more of the story to unfold before then.” I think that was the first time I named the possibility of writing a book to someone other than my husband.

Next step: Register for a writers conference
Last fall I started to see ads for Writing for Your Life — they host conferences throughout the year and one was planned for Indianapolis. It happened to be scheduled for the same week as a big event I was planning for work, so I figured the conference wouldn’t be possible. However, my supervisor and I found a way to make it work, so this week I’ll be attending a writing conference for the first time in my life! I’m particularly excited to hear Barbara Brown Taylor speak!

Next step: Submit an essay to an online magazine
On one afternoon while mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, a post caught my eye. It was a request for submissions to an online magazine that I read now and then. The topic was Trigger Words and right away I knew I had to write this essay. Ultimately they didn’t select my writing for this month’s topic; however, they did ask to keep it for a few more months to see if they can find a way to fit it in! It wasn’t a yes, but it wasn’t a no either. As you might guess, my trigger words are around the topic of infertility.

email from online magazine

Next step: Respond to current events that are meaningful to me
I don’t want to take advantage of difficult moments, but I found myself with a lot to say during (it’s still ongoing) a challenging time in the denomination in which I was born and raised, the denomination that employed me for 14 years, the denomination that helped me become the person I am today. It turns out what I had to say really resonated with a lot of people — I had the most views on a post ever because it was relevant, timely and well-written.

Next step: Buy business cards for writing conference
According to the emails I’m receiving for this upcoming conference, I need to prepare to attend a writing conference. I had no idea. One suggestion is to have business cards ready to handout. Since I don’t have a summary of my book or questions for a literary agent, I figured creating a business card was an easy step I could take. I decided to use the purpose I identified about a year ago for the back of the card. Another suggestion is to have an elevator speech ready. Mine came easily: “I want to write the book I needed when I found out about my infertility.” Now, I probably need to expand that at some point, but this feels like a good place to start.

picture of business card

Next step: Ask friends and family to help increase my audience
Last week I took a step to ask for help. I asked my friends and family to share my blog on social media. I asked them to repost the blogs that really resonate with them. It’s not easy for me to ask for help, especially in such a public way. But, I did it and gained some more followers!

Step 279: Keep writing
So, what’s next? I keep writing. I will attend a writing conference and learn as much as I can about blogging, growing an audience, and soak in all I can from the writers present. I keep writing. I will keep networking with other writers and learn from their successes and failures. I keep writing. I will put myself out there, as scary as it may be. I keep writing. I will start imagining what a memoir might look like and dream about when it might be born. I keep writing. And writing and writing.

peace.

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