This is my third year choosing and sharing one little word for the year ahead, and it has become a treasured ritual. Each of the past two years, the words I have chosen have manifested as powerful drivers of mindset and behavior.
In my experience, this little ritual makes something happen—and who am I to mess with the mojo of that kind of magic?
In 2020, I chose the word dare, recognizing that I had reached an important crossroads in my writing life, and it was time for me to take a big, scary risk. I was honest about saying out loud what it was that I really wanted, and it was time for action on my part to make it happen. I turned in my application to the bucket list MFA program-of-my-dreams the day the world shut down. I had no idea that the reading and writing work to come would be a lifesaver for me over the next year and a half—but there’s no question that it has been.
2021 was my year of heart, a word that reminded me how important it is to be open and connected to others, to let myself feel and express authentic emotion in person as well as through my writing. Over the past year, the word heart challenged me to put it all on the page.
As we begin 2022, I am a semester away from finishing my Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts (!!!). This experience has been transformational. I keep telling people it is the best decision I have ever made for myself as a creative person, and that is so true.
Over the past year and a half, I have immersed myself in the deep learning I had been craving. I’ve been fortunate to be part of an incredible community of writers. I’ve received the feedback I’ve needed to realize that if I want to make a professional shift into writing as a career, this is something I can do.
I don’t think I ever really believed that before.
The messaging I internalized from a young age was that writing could only be a hobby, that it was frivolous and impractical to pursue a full time career as a writer. Who wants to be a starving artist, right? I should be grateful that writing is a talent I could leverage as a professional strength in my “real job.” Writing as a career is a dream that only comes true for a tiny percentage of people. Who am I to dare to believe that that tiny percentage might include me?
I’ve finally reached the point where I can say: Why shouldn’t I believe that?
I have eighteen months of academic and life experience that suggests that not only am I capable of writing at high levels (through a pandemic) across a wide range of genres and forms—picture books, novels, short stories, verse—but this is the work that both brings me joy and challenges me in the ways I need, the ways that light me up and give me purpose.
This work is who I am. This work matters.
If the past three semesters have taught me anything, they have taught me to recognize and prioritize what matters most. I’ve learned that I can work harder than I’ve ever worked and care more than I’ve ever cared—and this is coming from someone who has always been an unapologetic workaholic deeply committed to my professional life as an educator.
The thing is, what I care about most has shifted. In a way. At the core, what I care about most is still kids—but now rather than teaching them, my focus is on writing for them.
And while I wouldn’t trade a single year of my career as a teacher and instructional coach, I’m recognizing that pursuing my dream of writing is what is next for me.
I know this won’t happen overnight. “Next” signals the beginning of a transition that will likely take multiple years from a food-on-the-table-pay-the-mortgage-oh-right-health-insurance-too-perspective, but I’m ready to begin actively planning for that transition to happen. I’m ready to imagine a different kind of life, to learn a new set of skills that will make it possible for writing to take center stage.
I’m ready to believe.