Kelly Bowen has her masters in veterinary physiology but she took a break to do something many of us have on our bucket list…write a book. She wants you to know that you can do it too!
Recently, I wrote a book.
Three of them, to be precise – a trilogy of historical romance novels that sold to Grand Central Publishing at the beginning of the summer. It’s marked a new chapter in my life (no pun intended) and I was beyond thrilled. Family and friends shared in my success with congratulations and delight. And to my surprise, my success prompted many of those friends and family members to confess that they too, had always dreamed of writing a book. Children’s, adult, non-fiction, cook books – all manner of subjects that they were passionate and knowledgeable about.
But what came as even a greater surprise was that these revelations were often followed up by a declaration that they could never do what I did. It was too late for them, they were simply too busy, they wouldn’t be good enough, or they wouldn’t know where to start. And then there was usually a good humored query that went something like: Jeez, is there anything you can’t do, Kelly?
To which I immediately replied no. In fact, I said, anyone asked that question should say no.
My response seemed only to earn a few eye rolls, a couple of sarcastic snorts and some very unconvincing agreement which baffled me, but it set me to thinking. How is it that the word ‘can’t’ has been gloriously absent my entire life?
I’ve certainly accepted there are a great number of things that I won’t be able to do, simply because it’s impossible to do everything in one lifetime. But that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t. It just means that I’ve chosen the things I am passionate about and invested in them. But I’ve never expected success to be handed to me simply because I wanted it. Success requires work, and patience and commitment and more work and I’m sure there are a thousand bumper stickers and Facebook links that say that far more eloquently than I just did. But the only person who can make things happen for you is you and if you don’t embrace that, then you’ll end up disappointed.
My favourite adage and one that I’ve always tried to live by is simply ‘find a way’. Despite my current occupation as writer, I have a master’s degree in veterinary physiology and have spent most of my life working in barns and on farms. Generally, they are in the middle of nowhere. Seventy-miles-from-the-nearest-post-office-nowhere. Depending on the type of farm, many facilities will be biosecure, meaning people cannot always enter the site. And often, you are the only one there on a day to day basis. So when things go sideways, you have no choice but to deal with it yourself. There is no cavalry to call to come to your rescue. When the water pump stops working, figure out why and find a way to fix it. When the ventilation systems won’t run, figure out why and find a way to fix it. Standing in the middle of the problem feeling sorry for yourself solves absolutely nothing. It just makes you really late for dinner.
Another lesson I learned early on was how to accept criticism. If you’re going to put yourself out there, expect it. This was likely something I became comfortable with playing an elite level of sport. Twenty-odd hours of my week would be spent listening to criticism. Too fast, too slow, not high enough, not strong enough. We’d watch video so I could see my deficiencies in slow motion. And then back to the gym I’d go to get it right.
All not so different from my writing experience. The books I wrote that sold? There were four books I wrote before that that didn’t. My first lives in the depths of my desk drawer and will never again see the light of day because it was so awful. The second rests amid many rejection letters from literary agents because while it was better, it wasn’t good enough. The third and fourth had potential – my agent likes the guts of them but at the moment they are unsellable because there isn’t a demand for the historical period or setting. In an age where everyone tiptoes around trying not to offend anyone, it’s often hard to get an honest response. Good feedback from expert sources is usually harsh, so check your feelings at the door. Pay attention and then apply it. I guarantee you won’t regret it.
In fact, regrets only come when the conversation starts with would have, could have, should have and ends with well rehearsed excuses. Again, I know that sounds like a bad Hallmark pitch or the outside of a glossy Lululemon bag, but it’s something that always lurks in the back of my mind. There are many, many things I’ve done that haven’t gone well the first time. Or even the fifty-first time. But I refuse to acknowledge ‘can’t’. So for those who think they have a book in them somewhere, write it. If you want to learn how to cook or ride a horse or dance a salsa, make it happen. Set a specific goal and find a way. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you and don’t lean on easy excuses. It’s going to be hard and it’s going to take patience. But it will be worth it.
I am not an extraordinary person. I’m a very ordinary person who, with enough perseverance, is capable of occasionally extraordinary things. Just like everyone else.
Kelly Bowen is an up-and-coming author, wife and mother of two. Her books are being published by Grand Central Publishing/Hachette and are set to be released in 2015. Elletourage will share Kelly’s journey of bringing her books to market as the story unfolds. We hope it inspires you to follow your own dreams, however bold they are.