Thursday, August 4, 2016

What It Takes to Be a Legitimate Author

I (Laurie) was cleaning out a cabinet in my office this weekend when I found this: 

It's the first completed draft of my very first manuscript, spiral-bound, marked up with colorful pen-love, and tea-stained. 

Just like that, I was back in 2013, standing in line at the printing kiosk of Office Depot. In my hands was a document that felt way heavier and more official than I'd thought it would. I took the pre-paid contents in their white box, quickly declining the clerk's offer to open it and double check that everything was there.  

Why did I waste almost $30 on getting this printed when I have no idea what I'm doing as a writer? 

What makes this story worthy of completion out of the hundreds I've started? 

Good thing I purposefully chose that white cover because I don't want anyone to see that I am a fraud.

When artists are vulnerable enough to own their work, first calling it what it is and then doing the brave thing of putting it out there for the world to see, I think everyone faces these kinds of thoughts at some point. In fact, I've talked to authors with 50+ published books who still feel the cold fingers of fraud on their shoulders, peeking on as they press send. And the creepy breath brushes the back of their neck as it whispers: Maybe this will be the time the world finally realizes you're not a legitimate author.

That just tells me one thing. The validity and importance of creative work aren't contingent on a first sale, a prestigious award, or the approval of any singular person. It's a decision you have to make (sometimes every day) to keep on working, learning, improving, and showing up no matter what. It's the acknowledgment that creativity looks different in seasons of ebbing production and consumption. But if you're faithful to honor your creativity and tell the stories God has given you, you will refine your work -- and He will use it to refine you. 

I now know the answers to those hard questions that riddled me from printing counter to parking lot in 2013:
  • It was worth the $30 when I didn't know what I was doing -- and it's still worth it three years later because I'll never fully know what I'm doing. 
  • This, my first story in printed form, is a tangible representation of the big idea God gave me, worthy of completion because, unlike other stories, this one was important enough that it kept me awake at night until it was finished. 
  • And I am no fraud because this story is important and has a purpose, even if my eyes are the only ones that will ever see it. 

Though this manuscript has yet to be contracted, it connected me with my agent, won my first writing contest, and got meaningful feedback from beta readers in its final form. Though those are great things to strive for, nothing was more important than what I learned from holding this spiral-bound manuscript in my hands. 

We are real authors because we do what it takes to finish the book. 

Now go write another. :) 


Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author and cheerleader for creatives. She believes that God's love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. 

Previously a full-time book publicist, Laurie now serves as a virtual assistant and runs a freelance editing and PR consulting business called 1624 Communications

She lives with her husband and two small children in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where they are anxiously awaiting the release of her debut contemporary romance novel in May 2017 from Harlequin Heartwarming.

You can connect with Laurie on her website, Facebook page, and Twitter


Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

I just love this. Everything about it. <3

Laurie Tomlinson said...

@ Karen - Thanks, girl!

Krista Phillips said...

Love this so much!!!

I struggle a LOT with confidence issues. Every time I get a 5 star review I have to lecture myself NOT to think it was a pity review. LOL Seriously, it's bad....

It is so hard because these are our babies and some days I read my book and am like, dude, that's great, and the next day I'm convinced I'm an utter failure.

I think it's part of the creative mind... because it is so subjective and such a process. Love the word refinement that you used! So totally appropriate!!

Kim Herrington said...

It's so easy to remember that taking risks is how we learn! I recently read Smarter Faster Better and it really emphasizes a lot of what you wrote about, especially in terms of giving yourself psychological security to take risks and try new things. Great post.

Rachelle O'Neil said...

Such a wonderful encouragement, Laurie! It's especially easy to feel like you have no business being here when you're just starting out. When you're still laboring away on that one special story, when you haven't been to your first writers' conference yet, when your friends have more blog followers than you do. It can be discouraging. Then I come across posts like this, and my world brightens again. Thanks, Laurie!

Teresa Tysinger said...

Do I really have to tell you how much I agree with all of this? Nope, didn't think so. :) Love you and your encouragement!

Tea Time said...

Thanks for this. I needed this tonight. So much of life is not in my control, but sitting down and finishing my novel is. It's enough to just finish it for me and God to see. This was a great boost. A very timely blog post. Thank you for writing it.

Laurie Tomlinson said...

@ Krista - I'm right there with you, sister! That's why we have trusted friends to snap us out of it, right? :)

@ Kim - I have heard great things and need to read Smarter Faster Better. Thanks for commenting!

@ Rachelle - Thank you so much! I'm so glad it was encouraging for you.

@ Teresa - Right back at you, my sweet!

@ Gail - Yes, it's SO enough! Thank you for reading!