The Rebirth of an American Writer
I have failed as a writer.
"Stick with writing and pursue being published and you'll get there within five years," promised the Big Publishing House editor.
"I can do that, " I thought. I can so do that.
And so... I did. I wrote. I wrote for free. I blogged. I submitted articles to print and digital magazines. Sometimes my article ideas were accepted and saw the light of the publishing day. Seeing my byline was always SUCH a RUSH ! Even if I wasn't make much money (if money at all), at least I was earning the bragging rights that I HAD BEEN PUBLISHED!
I wrote primarily about issues of faith, progressive Christianity and the culture of beliefism. I had a steady audience that liked the way I said things. My readers were disenfranshised Christians, too. My first blog site was titled, How God Messed Up My Religion. It is where I cut my teeth as a blogger and as a writer. (there is a difference between the two)
I even wrote a book, published by a now defunct independent publisher. It sold over a thousand copies. Not much in the world of Big Publishing, but definitely respectable in the world of indy publishing, especially considering that the average American author sells less than one hundred books.
Seriously !!! (google it !)
All those years I wrote my heart out establishing my name as a faith writer. And then, it dawned on me, about ten years in :::
I am not a Christian writer.
That was a serious realization that despite my thousands upon thousands of words written for a Christian readership was not really the writer I was meant to be. Oh My LORD ! WTF !!!
A favorite adage among writers is Write what you know. For me, the world of faith and Christian beliefism was what I knew. And writing was my salvation in reexamining my certainty of creed, so much so that it was upon the blank digital pages of my blog and journals that I deconstructed many of my beliefs down to the studs. My fortress of certainty, as my friend Deborah is apt to call it, barely survived the writerly examination I gave of every tenet of my faith.
Then came a shift, a bumpy shift of What to write about now ???
I stumbled into writing about whatever I wanted once I became directionless, mapless, without a bone to pick any longer with the faith of my youth.
It was like entering a grand wilderness ripe for exploring and I could explore any direction I so desired.
I began writing about body issues, identity, nature and the creative process. I told stories of shame and relationship struggles and parenting failures.
Guess what ?
My readers kept on reading, no matter what I wrote about.
As I learned to trust my writing path I also learned to trust not only the true, bold writerly voice that is mine and only mine, but also to Trust the Reader. Readers have the most spot-on bullshit detectors. Readers can smell an insincere writer a mile away and they will shuffle away in search of another writer who is telling it true, saying it bold. I know this, because before I am a writer, I am a reader and if I sense that the writer is hiding behind flowery words or self-pity or self-indulgence, I will become disengaged and resume my search for an authentic voice. Storytellers have got to be REAL... this is more important than being TALENTED. A great writer has got to be
That is my north star as I once again find myself at a new vista point of my writerly career. Who am I as a writer ? I am now writing under a new name as my married name is no longer who I am. This is the time to move forward and deeper into the wild lands of authenticity and fearless writing. Years ago at a writers workshop a successful novelist said, "Write what you're afraid to write. That's the good stuff, the dangerous stuff. Write about that."
This is my rebirth. I may be born again with a new name, Pamela Sue Johnson, as I let go of my former writing self (R.I.P. Pam Hogeweide) , but I am dog-damn determined to write truer and bolder than ever before, with greater authenticity as I discover more about who I am in my new reality.
I can't wait to see what I write.
actually published. Most times I didn't even hear back.