This post originally appeared on Deanna Raybourn‘s blog.
Inevitably, during the holidays, we turn to reflection. Perhaps we find a few things about our lives we want to change (hence the theory of New Year’s resolutions), or perhaps…we start to become amazed at how wonderful our life truly is. The things we thought were dooming us to fail have cleared away, and swiftly, we have the entire world poised before us. A brand new world ripe with possibilities, from new friends to new business endeavors to remembering that above all, we are loved.
To say that 2013 was a whirlwind year for me would be an understatement. Not only did I finish drafting my first novel, A Dangerous Invitation, but in December I published it. Now I can look at myself in the mirror and say, “hey, you fancy girl, you’re a published author.” There’s something bold and beautiful about that, and the knowledge that I’ve got all these stories inside of me just waiting to come out is powerful. I am utterly aware now that I control my fate. I’m starting to make a place for myself in the world of historical romance as the girl you turn to for anything vulgar, creepy, or related to London’s underworld. I have become, due to my obsession with suspenseful writing, the romance writer for nonromance people—if it goes boom, has dead people, or any element of gritty mystery, I’m your girl.
I could sit here, on my couch in front of my blissfully roaring fire, and I could tell you all of my accomplishments in 2013. The things that have meant so much to me, and how much I’ve changed (I bake things now. It’s incredible. I used to not be able to find where the kitchen was located in my house). But really, all of that wouldn’t have happened without this tremendous community in publishing of writers. And romance readers, bloggers—and those crazy readers who take a chance on me even though I write those books they don’t normally read, but hey, they’re feeling up for a change.
I joined Twitter in 2011. It changed my life. You might think I’m exaggerating, but in 2011 I lived in a small town in Florida. It was lovely, and I was close to my family, but it didn’t have a strong community of romance writers and hence I felt like I was floundering professionally. Through Twitter, I met up with writers who loved the same thing I did–Jane Austen, ahoy!—and they were willing to give me all this advice and support. My dear blog host, the lovely Deanna Raybourn, was one of the first writers to reach out to me. I remember squeeing to my husband that this woman whose book I had on my shelf was talking to me. Me! I was deemed important, and that club of published authors didn’t seem so impossibly far away.
Suddenly, I had a plan. I could do this writing thing. All those doubts I’d drilled into my mind over the years were somewhat mitigated by this constant flow of help from other writers just like me. And in July of 2012, I moved to North Carolina so that I could be closer to the writer’s group that had adopted me on Twitter—Heart of Carolina, a chapter of the Romance Writers of America. My husband found a job that was more fulfilling to him in the field of computers, all because I’d made some friends on the Internet. To say that I’ve grown in my writing in the past two years because of this group is an understatement. At my fingertips, I had access to over forty of the brightest minds I’d ever met. I went to conferences, workshops, meetings, coffee dates to discuss writing. I lived my book. As I settle down to write the next book, and the book after that, on and on…I keep these memories close to me.
I think now, as I look back on the year, what I’m most grateful for is this sense of community. Writing is at its heart, a lonely job. You pound away at your keyboard and you try and make sense of this ridiculous idea in your head. Nothing ends up the way you want it to and you start to fear that you are the world’s biggest hack. But then there’s people who reach out to you in your darkest days. They remind you that while your work right now might be wretched, it’ll be salvageable with a bit of editing. You aren’t horrible at your art. You just need to find new ways to express yourself, ways to communicate this deep-seated message within you.
This community pulls me back every time I think about quitting. I’m hard-pressed to remember a time when I didn’t have these great writing friends, these reading friends—how did I exist without you? I think I’m drawn to writing about stories about love and relationships because of this. I want badly to believe that love truly does conquer all. That there’s perfect people out there, who understand your flaws and your follies. I think I’ve found one in my dear husband, but it’s my hope that there’s a proper person for everyone.
If it happens that this year was harder than most for you, and you feel yourself wondering how in the world you’re going to get through another year, have hope. Things can change. You may find that life suddenly has promise, all because of one little thing you did that changed your life irrevocably.
Happy New Year!