Today’s story comes from Cheryl Edwards, author of the Elta series. Cheryl and her husband, Oliver, are church planters for GBCanada, starting Grasslands Church, a Grace Brethren congregation in Medicine Hat, Alberta, in 2011. Oliver took the role of lead pastor at Bow Island Community Bible Church in 2015, where they now attend with their sons. (The Bow Island church joined the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches in 2016.) Cheryl writes the stories she always dreamed of telling in her spare time and continues to be involved in local theater, raising her family and pursuing a professional career.
Everyone’s career has a starting point. No one starts out in the place they want to be. It takes time.
My journey into writing started years ago when I was a child. I have always loved telling stories. I’d tell stories to stuffed animals, my siblings and even my parents. My mind was constantly creating worlds and characters. To my delight, my parents put me into theatre, which allowed me to transform into other writers’ characters. That didn’t, however, satisfy my need to share my own stories with others.
I started writing stories whenever I had access to paper and a pencil. I would stuff fresh sheets of paper into a binder and carefully design a terribly-drawn book cover. I’d carefully write out the title of “Chapter One” at the top of the page and begin to write my story. Then, I would make a mistake, and I would need to use an eraser. That eraser would leave a grey smudge on the otherwise perfect page of prose.
That meant rewriting everything that was on the “ruined” page. I was no longer creating. I was copying what I created, and that meant forgetting the next part of the story that was yet to be written.
This was how I started: in frustration over not getting it right the first time.
My desire to get it right continued into my teen years. I didn’t want anyone to see what I was writing. I would hide my writing away, fearful that someone would read it before it was ready and that they’d tell me it wasn’t good enough. I had no one to keep me going and encourage me. Eventually, my writing fizzled out. I stopped and didn’t return to it until after I was married with six kids.
That’s right: I stopped writing for almost 20 years. Now, I could look at those 20 years as time wasted, or I could view it as a time of growth. I gained more skill, gained more life experience, gained more confidence in myself and grew thicker skin.
I spent two years working on my manuscript. It was no longer about me protecting my work from the curious eyes of others. I was sharing it and giving others the opportunity to help me improve.
I now look at the first draft of “A Shot at Peace” and see a very different style than the final released copy. It wouldn’t be the book it is now had I tried to do it on my own. The greatest development was within me. I was able to accept praise from those who complimented my book. I was able to take the criticism of areas that needed improvement and rework sections that needed to be addressed. I didn’t let perfectionism get in the way that could have convinced me to shove the manuscript in a drawer.
What kind of writer am I now? I am a faster writer. I am no longer afraid to share my work. I am proud to say that I have released a book into the world. Hard work and patience with myself and the process are what turned me into the writer I am today. I let the stories I wanted to tell pour out onto the page by removing whatever roadblocks were in the way. Now, I am working on becoming a better writer through reading others’ works and by putting even more words to the page. It is an ongoing journey, but one I am excited to be on.