On the month that my 30th novel comes out Iâ€™d like to talk about dealing with
Over the years, when beginning writers come to me and say, "Do I have
what it takes to be a writer? Am I gifted?" I always remember the night I
followed my writing teacher out of class. Iâ€™d just read my first chapter of my
first novel. Handwritten on yellow legal paper. I knew nothing of plotting,
viewpoint, characterization or even manuscript format. Iâ€™d just signed up for a
community class at the college and had dreams of hitting within months.
While we walked to her car, I asked her one question after another. Iâ€™m sure she
was wondering if I could be some kind of writer/stalker by the time we reached
her car. With the door open, I blurted out my last question. "Do you think
I can be a writer? I mean a real writer."
She smiled (or at least I think she did for we were standing on a dark parking
lot) and said, "If you work really, really hard youâ€™ll make it."
I danced back to my car thinking my writing teacher had seen something in me
that meant I had what it takes to make it big. I was gifted. I followed her
advice. I learned to type and use a computer. I wrote an hour or two a day. I
read all the books on writing. I joined a critique group. I tried to learn to
I pulled small amounts of time out of my day and tried to learn one thing each
day. And at night, I dreamed of autographing. (I also dreamed of being thin, but
that never worked) But, I was sure writing would. After all, my teacher believed
I could do it.
Months passed. Nothing
I didnâ€™t see failure. I only decided I wasnâ€™t working hard enough. I doubled my
efforts. I worked three hours a day. I took my lunch so I could work during
lunch and breaks. I subscribed to writerâ€™s magazines and went to the library
each month to read the ones I couldnâ€™t afford. I entered contest. I tried harder
to learn to spell.
I still didnâ€™t see failure. (I did however lower my goal from making a million
to being able to make enough to pay postage and fees on all the contests I
entered.) I could still hear my teacherâ€™s advice, "If you work really,
I pushed writing time into hours I should have been sleeping. I entered more
contest. I scraped together enough money to attend two conferences a year. I
rewrote so many times I wanted to kill most of my characters. I wrote openings
to book after book trying to develop hooks. I read in the fields I was trying to
break into. I bought used books by the big names and outlined them. I tried to
learn to spell.
Finally, the money began to come in. Ten dollars for a short article. Five for a
poem. Twenty for third place.
I pushed harder, using my newfound wealth to prim the pump. I bought more books
on writing. I attended more conferences. I asked so many questions Iâ€™m surprised
they didnâ€™t ban me from attending. I drove miles to take writers to lunch so I
could find out how they did it.
But, most of all I worked really, really hard. One day in the teacherâ€™s lounge
when I was sleeping between classes, someone asked me, "Jodi, youâ€™re
killing yourself. What are you trying to do?" I wanted to say, "Iâ€™m
gifted. My talent's gold, but no one knows and if I donâ€™t mine it, no one will
ever know. Mining is hard work, so Iâ€™ve got to work really, really hard."
I didnâ€™t listen when people kindly told me I was wasting my time. I did give up
on spelling however and decided to just trust spell check.
Then, one day, it happened. After years of study and work I sold a book. In
fact, I sold five in fifteen months and from then on I sold as fast as I could
Now, twenty years and 30 books later Iâ€™ve been on the New York Times and
USATodayâ€™s lists. Iâ€™ve won three RITAâ€™s and am a member of RWAâ€™s hall of
The walls of my office on the university where I am writer-in-residence are
lined with awards and my book covers.
It surprises me sometimes when people come to visit and say, "Oh, youâ€™re so
lucky to be gifted. I wish I had such a talent."
They have no idea. Iâ€™m not gifted at all, or lucky. I stumbled hundreds of
times. For every award there are a dozen contests where I didnâ€™t place. For
every book that sees daylight, there are at least four drafts still hiding in
"So, whatâ€™s the secret?" the young writers ask as they follow me out
of a lecture. "Do I have what it takes to be a writer?"
All I can say is an echo that ran through my brain for years when I was trying.
"If you work really, really hard you can be a writer."
As the second in my HARMONY SERIES comes out I believe SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY is
one of the best books Iâ€™ve written. I enjoyed writing it and I hope you will
enjoy reading it.
10 comments posted.
Hard work has it's rewards. You achieved your goals and have many readers great books to enjoy.
(Rosemary Krejsa 8:02pm November 16, 2010)
I think its wonderful how we as human beings can over come so much in life if we just set our minds to it. You are an example for us all.
(Vickie Hightower 10:15pm November 16, 2010)
You are gifted more than you realize. Not only have you written so many books and won several awards, but you had the guts to be so honest with us about all the hard knocks you took to get where you are. Many writers would have hung up their pens and have gone on to do other things, while you persevered. I, on the other hand, have a book inside of me, but don't have the guts to put pen to paper. Thank you for such an insightful article. It meant such a great deal to me, and just might give me that boost of inspiration!!
(Peggy Roberson 10:23pm November 16, 2010)
Talent can appear with practice and perseverance. We all can write, but not everybody makes a cohesive story with all three parts - beginning, middle and an end. I think that's why I like mysteries, since the ending can be left up in the air.
(Alyson Widen 6:37pm November 19, 2010)