I was 12 or 13 when I sent off a handwritten story to one of those magazine advertisements soliciting people who “really want to write.” And when I say handwritten, I literally mean I employed paper and pencil to do so. My story was titled “Too Much Gum.”

A few weeks later, I received a typed reply on classy, official stationery, telling me I had great promise as an author. I was instructed to send them X amount of money—I don’t remember the exact sum, but I thought it was quite reasonable—so that they could help me hone my skills and become a published author.

I excitedly took the letter to my mother. She laughed. “It’s a form letter,” she said. And without further ado, she threw my dream into the trashcan.

“But… But…” I stammered. “They want to help me be a real writer!”

“They want you to send them money for a writing course, that’s all.” And that was the end of that.

Years passed. I finished high school, then college, started teaching, got married—and divorced. And still the dream persisted, niggling me to write, write, write, and keep on writing!

And so I did. I wrote a humorous personal experience column for the local newspaper for over 10 years. Then I got canned. Not because I couldn’t write, but because the newspaper had a shift in perspective, and I was told there was no place for “fluff.”

Nevertheless, I kept writing. I had collections of my columns published by Kaleidoscope Press. I started submitting short romances to women’s magazines. I wrote four one-act plays, and saw them all produced. Twenty years in the making, I finally finished a book about a former student, and decided to self-publish it in November, 2009.

Then I began sending stories in to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Over a dozen stories have thus far been accepted for publication. I began blogging in January, 2009. My first Dinner Theater Play was performed in Nebraska earlier this month. And the fire to write burns ever brighter.

“Too Much Gum,” was about a childhood experience I had as I regained consciousness, lost when my cousin cut off my air supply while roughhousing. I came to on my aunt’s kitchen floor, and was amazed by the myriad of colors and sheer number of splotches of gum stuck to the underside of their dining room table.

I don’t honestly know if the story was any good, but the act of writing it certainly deserved praise. If you’re a parent, remember that. And if you’re a teacher, I hope you’ve always known it’s the writing, not the content, which deserves recognition. If you’re a wannabe writer, well, don’t let the naysayers distract you from continuing to write.

Keep going with your blossoming creative efforts, whether in writing, quilting, singing, drawing, painting, dancing, photography, woodworking, gardening, or anything else you like to do. Enjoy yourself, and celebrate the process!