Thursday, May 3, 2018

If I Knew Then... by Victoria Chatham

Ah, yes. Hindsight is wonderful. If I knew then what I know now, I would never have listened to the naysayers – those people who didn't take my writing ambitions seriously and joked about the stories I produced. My earliest audience was my family and I know I don’t need to go into details here as I’ve met many writers whose paths have been similar to mine.

The results, however, have differed. In my case, I simply did not have the confidence to persist. Never mind that I had been awarded prizes for essay writing at school, but an essay is a very different beast to that of a work of fiction. I was always a reader and when I discovered romance in my teens I thought I was in heaven. There were times, even then, when I thought I could do better but there was always that gremlin on my shoulder whispering ‘no, you can’t.’ It wasn’t until I had children that I started writing again but I still lacked the confidence to pursue it as a career.

Roll forwards a few (many) years and, now married to a Canadian and living in Calgary, I heard an interview with author Gail Bowen (Joanne Kilbourne mysteries) in which she stated (as closely as I can recall) that ‘people who have lived exotic lives often make the best authors as they have so much material to draw from.’ It was at that point that I took good at my life and decided I did have a lot of material to draw from. I also now had support for my writing ambitions as my Canadian husband (now my dear departed as he passed away in 2001) signed me up for a writing course and I joined my first writers' group.

Groups don’t and won’t work for everyone, but I finally found my fit and gained the confidence in my writing that had been so sadly lacking. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who ‘got it’ and understood the quirks and foibles that make writers who they are. In 2012, at age sixty-nine, I self-published my first book. Since then I’ve written seven more. I look at young writers today and so admire their apparent fearlessness, their willingness to jump right in and write whatever they like.

So, what would I tell my younger self? Ignore the naysayers, brush that gremlin away, and go for it. Take that workshop, go to that conference, learn the craft but then cut to the chase and write the damn book!

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