When I Was Seventeen

Fountain PenWhen I was seventeen, shortly before my eighteenth birthday, I wrote a novel. I had never taken a creative writing class. Nobody had ever explained plot, structure, and outlining to me. Yet, I had a dream of becoming a writer.

Looking back now, my protagonist had some character traits that may have caused readers to dislike her. However, the story had the right elements—background, situation, protagonist, antagonist.

Even though I knew nothing about writing and publishing, I knew my dream and had the courage to move forward.

That same year, I had an idea for a second novel and spent a good deal of the summer writing. I didn’t complete the second story, but came close. I kept both for a few years, and then threw them away. After all, a teenager wrote them about teenagers.

I had known I wanted to be a writer since the age of ten. My greatest desire was to write fiction. However, after high school, I allowed life to get in the way of writing.

At least, that’s what I told myself. In reality, I lacked courage. I made excuses. When I did write, I wouldn’t share it for fear of not being “good enough.” It took many years for me to allow someone else to read any of my writing. When I did share, the person was very kind, courteous and encouraging.

Several more years would pass before I had the courage to pursue fiction writing. I had ideas, thoughts, and the desire, but old fears kept me from pursuing my dream.

However, this year, I began writing more fiction. Next month I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo (a part of National Novel Writing Month.) Through the encouragement of several of my writing friends, I realize I can do it.

Fear can keep us from pursuing our dreams. Discouragement hinders us from achieving our goals. Having someone to come alongside us, to encourage us, makes a world of difference.

I asked myself, “What is the worst that can happen if when I complete this book? The answer? Even if it’s never published, I’ll have a completed manuscript.

Do you have goals and dreams? Has fear or discouragement kept you from achieving those goals? Please share in the comments.

  • Tonia Hurst

    Enjoyed this piece and your reflections. I’m impressed that you wrote a novel as a teenager. Glad to hear you’re back at it again.

    • Thank you, Tonia. Back in those days, I didn’t let fear overtake me. Of course, I never dreamed of sharing it with anyone. Now, I want to write – and publish!

  • Wow Joan that’s awesome that you wrote a novel when you were so young! It’s so true that fear and discouragement are some of the biggest resistance we face. Glad you overcame the fear and are writing fiction again ~ it’s going to be fun 🙂

    • Lorna, I’m looking forward to the “camp” and know it will be loads of fun. I may even do the November event. 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing your story of writing complete with the bully, fear. I think it’s great that you took the desire you’ve had for years and fanned it into a flame. While you were sixteen you were writing novels. And I was putting together little poems to give to friends on their birthdays. Funny isn’t it?

    • Anne, yes even back then we were already developing our writers voice and genre preferences. I dabbled with a bit of poetry, but wasn’t very good at it. However, your poems are inspiring – you have a God given talent.

  • staci troilo

    If you could accomplish all that as a teenager, think what you can accomplish now! I’m really looking forward to seeing what you do as you move forward.

    • Thank you, Staci. You are a big encouragement to me and I’m thankful for our fiction group.

  • Denise Beidler Jackson

    I admire your tenacity. I have never written a piece of fiction, but I have fictionalized non-fiction. I wish you the best!

    • Thank you, Denise! I admit that it’s been easier for me to write non-fiction – probably because of the smaller word count. However, I want to persevere and do this!

  • The novelist in you never died, Joan; she just sat on her skills for years. Now you have greater insight, life experience, cultivated creativity, wisdom, and desire to press past fear. I admire your ability to write a novel at seventeen. Quite an achievement! I never got beyond penning mostly personal and private poetry and a novella that was read softly to my friends at lunchtimes, then discarded. Never forget you are still a talented writer who will show the world what she’s made of as her courage takes over! 🙂

    • Joy, thank you so much for the encouragement. It really means a lot to me. I should say that the novel was a short one – not sure about word count, but I kept writing until I had an ending. Of course, I had a lot of telling – not showing in it. I used to write a bit of poetry myself, but that was a long time ago.

  • kathunsworth

    Joan it is your time to be the you, you once dreamed of as a young girl. I am excited to share the journey and look forward to reading what you create.

    • Thanks, Kath. I’m really getting excited about this!

  • Joan, I admire your determination in facing down your fears and moving forward with you writing. I want to walk in your shadow and learn from you! Good luck at Camp NaNoWriMo, and enjoy your writing experience.

    • Sherrey, there is so much I can learn from you! I feel like a novice sometimes. I’m looking forward to this writing project and I keep reminding myself of something author Terri Blackstock says on her website, “Don’t get it right, get it written.”

  • “What’s the worst that can happen?” I had to ask myself that, too. I love this post. It speaks volumes.

    • Thanks, Stephanie! And really, I believe the “worst” that could happen is for me not to write the story.