I've always loved writing stories.
When I was in middle school, I could not resist the call to write. I would write when I was supposed to be listening to my teachers, when I was supposed to be practicing my violin, when I was supposed to be sleeping. Stories of princesses who rescued princes, of girls who struggled with emotions they couldn't understand, of magical forests and the fantastic creatures who lived there. The stories bubbled from my mind, flowing out of me onto the paper.
It became clear to me by high school that I was going to be a writer. I'd graduated from short stories to novellas, and finally to novels. The characters came to life in my mind and demanded their story be written. It wasn't that I wanted to be a writer so much as I needed to be one. I could not imagine going a day without writing.
Practicality often gets in the way of dreams. In high school, I took a writing class offered at the library, and learned the average salary of a freelance writer. I was determined to make it work, though. I was sixteen when I submitted my first query letters to publishers I'd found in a book at the library. When the rejection letters started coming in, I treasured them because it meant I had tried. One form letter I will always remember - handwritten at the bottom of the page were the words "I'm sorry."
I was determined to be a writer, no matter how little I made, no matter how many rejection letters I received. But after four years of studying creative writing in college, I was burnt out. I had written short stories and papers and poems and creative nonfiction essays. My brain had melted. The creative juices had run dry. I picked up my pen and found no characters waiting to be written.
When I went to divinity school, I accepted that I would not become a writer. I'd acknowledged my call to ministry, and was okay with the fact that I wouldn't spend my days writing stories. I gave up on one dream to pursue a new one. I stopped feeling the urge to write. I stopped hearing characters begging for their stories to be told. Though I missed them, I felt good about the new path I was on.
But now a strange thing has happened. It has been four years to the day since I graduated from college, and I've started to feel that urge again. Though I'm not a freelance writer, like my twelve-year-old self dreamed, I am still a writer. The genre of my writing has changed - it now includes blog posts, sermons, and "theological reflection papers" - but the joy that comes with writing has not disappeared.
I wish I could go to my twelve-year-old self and tell her not to give up. Even when it seems like the dream you've had since childhood is dead, don't give up. Keep seeking the dream, keep listening for signs. I would tell her that she would someday be a writer, just as she'd always dreamed.