I Am a Fiction Writer: The Case for Authenticity

I am a fiction writer.There; I said it.I write fiction. That's what I was put on this earth to do; I believe that 100%, with every fiber of my being. So why is it so hard to claim it?Finding my calling wasn't easy, and I'm not even sure I had that one epiphany moment where the pieces just fell into place and writing fiction presented itself as the obvious choice. No; there were many epiphany moments that have led me here, have shown me my life's purpose.But still I fight it. I've listened to others for so long sometimes I forget how to listen to the voice inside me, the one God uses to tell me what His plan is for me. The one that quietly but insistently whispers to the depths of my soul. The one that tells me my life's purpose. The one that is supremely difficult to hear but is still there, still trying to get through to me. The one that I've let others drown out too long. Including myself.Well, no more. I've done a considerable amount of research and soul-searching in the past few months (sorry this blog's been so quiet), but sometimes taking a step back is necessary for clarity. And this past weekend, I started hearing that voice again, quiet, yet loud and clear: "Step into your calling, Melissa. You were uniquely created to do this; the world needs you to do this. Life is short; you can't guarantee that you'll have tomorrow to start this. Start now."My last surviving grandparent died a few weeks ago, and burying your oldest relative can make you realize just how short life really is. So, in part, this is for her, the grandmother I know supported me and would have continued to support me every step of the way.But back to my question about why it's so hard for me to step into my life's calling. To explain, I'll give you a brief (BRIEF, I promise) background on how I got here.In college, instead of following my heart, I listened to the people who told me to find a "good" major that will be "guaranteed" to make me money. So I got a BBA in Accounting. And the whole "guaranteed job" thing worked - for a short time.Then I had the opportunity to stay at home and focus on what I really wanted to do for a career. I'd always wanted to write a "real" book (I'd written a short one in high school that I'd hesitate to go back and actually read), so I started. I got one page in, didn't know where I wanted to go with it, then stopped. For almost a year. Then, thanks to a new author I discovered and went absolutely crazy over (in case you're wondering, it was Stephenie Meyer), I suddenly discovered the direction I wanted to take my book. The first draft was done in less than a year! And I knew I wanted to write fiction for a living.Then life got in the way. Funny how that always happens, right? I think it took me another year to get through my first round of edits (my second draft), then life threw me a curveball and I didn't work on it for over a year. It may have even been two. Slowly, deliberately, I got back into it, but only fit it in here and there, editing in spurts. At the beginning of last year, I finally felt brave enough to send my completed third draft out to some readers. Everyone who got back to me had really good feedback, and really liked it! So you'd think I'd get really inspired and prepare my manuscript to send to literary agents, right?Uh...not so much.So here I am, eight years later, with a book in the final edits (fifth and final edit, I HOPE) but still not 100% complete. Why?My why for writing is pretty solid. I love it, I want to do it every day for the rest of my life, but yet I don't seem to stick with it. So what else is going on?For me, I struggle with the money. I hear it now (and have heard it all over the Internet, believe me): "You have to write for you, not for the money. You have to write because you're a writer and you can't not write. You have to write to create art. You have to write even if no one ever reads a word.""Yes," my inner voice (not the smart, quiet one from before, but the annoying stupid one that yells really loud and seems to only want me in misery) interjects, "I know all that! But you still have to have a job and make money. And you can't make money writing fiction, can you? Nope, because of the rise of ebooks and self-publishing, the path to traditional publishing is dead, and you have to be a marketer above anything else. That's the only way to sell books. Everybody knows that. Everybody's telling you that. You have to go learn that."So my keep-me-miserable inner voice is telling me all the things I shouldn't be doing, for all the reasons I shouldn't be using, and the result is - you guessed it - misery.(Not to say I'm miserable, but not following your calling is a sort of soul-crushing misery that I'm binding today and throwing out the back door!) So here's my manifesto, the things I'm writing down here so you all can keep me accountable:1. I must write to write.I love it, so why am I not doing it? Even if I make no money doing it, ever, I still must  write. If it truly is my life's calling, the people who need to read my words will read them.  Somehow. Even if it's only one person.2. Stop listening to everyone else.There are so many intelligent people out there, even people who have monetized their craft and are making good money writing and selling books. But why do I think my path will look the same as theirs? I need to learn to drown out every voice except that quiet one deep inside and figure out where it's leading me. Where God's leading me.3. Put away all distractions.Learning is good, but at some point I have to stop learning and just act. Oh yeah - and Facebook.4. Be my truest authentic self.I'm not into building a huge platform online and spending all my time on that. There are skills I can learn and have learned that will help me in today's online economy, but my heart's in the fiction. That's where I truly shine. My focus should be on that. So I hope you're ready! My fiction's about to take over this blog. I hope you'll join me on the journey! Let's see what fun we can have along the way, and not worry so much about the destination. Whether my book is published and sells millions of copies or it never sees the light of day, if I am my authentic self, the rest will follow. Whatever "the rest" is.