Last Tuesday night, I got to meet a published author. Not just a published author- but a #1 New York Times Best Selling Author. I don’t think that I can put into words how cool that is when you are one in the crowd of many who loves to write.
I met Louise Penny. Not even did I just meet Louise Penny, I got to pass her the books as she autographed them, talk to her about her writing process, take a picture and have her sign a book for me. All because of the coolest little bookstore around, Midtown Reader.
But maybe that name doesn’t ring a bell. Allow me to shed some light on the situation.
Louise Penny has published 14 books. She’s one of the biggest names in the mystery novel genre. She’s well known and extremely accomplished now, but it took a while for her to reach this stage. Louise Penny has known for a long time that she wanted to be a writer, but she didn’t start pursuing this career until she was in her 40’s. And she had to face many hardships in life before she was ready. She once was an alcoholic, and participated in AA meetings in an old, dirty basement of a church. She even got close to committing suicide. Thank God that she didn’t, because her words have affected and inspired so many people, including myself.
Hearing her speak about writing made me realize all the more that writing is my passion as well. But I’m a very insecure writer right now. It’s so easy to be discouraged when it comes to writing because there are so, so many people who also want to pursue writing. That’s scary to me. I’m constantly finding myself comparing my work to others, and getting so scared to take the first step that I just don’t out of fear. I think we can all feel this way no matter our passion, and sometimes all we need is a little encouragement from the right crowd.
So as I waited to pass the microphone out to a lucky crowd member who got to ask Louise a question, I felt myself hanging onto every single word she was saying. She spoke about how she needed to find the right community before her best works came. Louise said her and her husband both wanted to move to a different city with people they didn’t know so that they could get a fresh start.
After they did, she fell into the right crowd of women who encouraged her to write. They asked her what she did and she told them she liked to write but that she wasn’t a writer. They questioned her, “What do you mean you’re not a writer?” Louise answered, “I haven’t been writing anything, I’m not a writer.” Their response is what blew my mind and probably stick with me for the rest of my life.
They said something along the lines of, “Who cares if you haven’t been writing? If you say you’re a writer and believe that you’re a writer, then you’re a writer.”
That is exactly what I needed to hear.
When it comes to following your passion, it doesn’t matter who the competition is.
I’m a firm believer that if you are really in love with what you are doing, then you will be successful. And comparing yourself to others is simply a waste, because when it comes down to it many times, you’re really only in competition against yourself.
Obviously there are going to be some obstacles. Especially if you’re passionate about writing.
Louise’s first book was rejected by more than 50 publishers. That’s right. 50 different publishers turned down work by a future best selling author. Obviously, she didn’t let that stop her. She got her first big break by entering a writing contest for best unpublished novel. I got to ask her about some advice for writing and she answered that it’s really all about putting yourself out there and taking risks.
Life is constantly finding new ways to surprise us. Doors will open to places you never thought possible and life will take you down a completely different path. Embrace it. Find what you love and chase after it. Don’t let rejection take everything you have.
I wasn’t planning on writing about this experience. Heck, I wasn’t dreaming of even meeting her. But it’s so wonderful that I was blessed with the opportunity to.
Thank you to all the staff at Midtown Reader who helped to make this event possible and gave me this wonderfully, beautiful opportunity. And thank you to Louise Penny for sharing her passion and encouraging others to realize that it’s never too late to pursue what you love.