I enjoy almost everything about writing. I would venture to guess that most writers have a passion for people because we’re keen to observe them. Quirks, facial expressions, a twinkle in an eye or a shy smile—all are filed away for later use. Seeing people react to the same stimuli differently fascinates. Subtle inflections in voice, patterns of speech, little slips by us without notice. Notes are taken mentally wherever we go. Frankly, I feel that this awareness has made me a more sensitive and compassionate person.
My husband and I were blessed with a healthy set of twins in 1989, and I was fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom until they started school. When I entered the business world, writing became my escape from the chaos in my life. I worked office jobs as an administrative assistant, and later, designed graphics for a sign company. I began writing full-time with greater depth in 2010. It became my job. I learned about deadlines, edits, and found that some days, siphoning thoughts out of my brain felt like pulling teeth without Novocain. Saying goodbye to characters at the end of a story or when they died left a lingering ache inside my chest. Most difficult of all, I had to walk the same path of pain I put my characters through so I could tell their story with deserved respect.
It’s a firm belief of mine that a serious writer needs to stare at unspeakable things directly in the face without blinking. You can’t be afraid to touch death. On the tough days it feels paralyzing to begin. Occasionally, I succumb to the fear of it and don’t write at all. But most days it’s a thrill. Every career has its highs and lows. Writing is no different.
When I was a young girl in the 60’s, being a writer wasn’t my first career choice. I wanted to be a paleontologist. By the time I entered the third grade, I realized my mistake. I loved dinosaurs and studying bones, but the idea of having to dig in dirt changed my mind fast.
Growing older, I fell in love with classic novels like, “Wuthering Heights,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” and “Jane Eyre.” I felt desperate for the unlovable to find love and became a champion of the underdog. The young writer inside me thrived and found a purpose. I cut my teeth on angsty poetry and fan fiction as a teen, sometimes having my work confiscated by an annoyed teacher or nosy classmate. It didn’t stop me.
In the years that followed, I posted free novels online and had stories published in anthologies. I belonged to a great writers group, but something held me back from finishing my debut novel. Remember that fear I mentioned above? The themes in this book would be darker. I had a path to walk, and I didn’t know if I could make it to the other side unscathed. A new fear added to the mix as well: the fear of rejection. It kept me from leaning on others for support. It was also the impetus for a number of excuses.
I need an immense amount of solitude when I’m writing something serious, and I’d encountered a ‘space’ problem in my home. I needed more of it. My process requires quiet and minimal distraction—things I had trouble finding. I didn’t have this problem when I was younger. The words flowed from head to keyboard as fast as coffee was consumed inside a 24-hour Starbucks. Things change with age. But what I needed to change most was my mindset. I needed help. I needed to stop making excuses for why I couldn’t write.
Contrary to what some will say, we’re never too old to learn something new, or re-learn something we’ve forgotten. I had to re-learn the skill of perseverance, and it was taught by watching other writers who were walking down a similar path. Fear was keeping me from reaching my goal, and I’d had enough.
By its nature, writing is a lonely profession—but you can find co-workers. Reach out and network with other writers. Look up a group in your area, or use Facebook as a tool. It may take you outside of your comfort zone, but the encouragement will increase your productivity. Writers will understand your unique challenges. Most of all, if you find yourself making excuses, don’t give up.
A Southern California native and voracious reader, Cathy M. Conway’s been writing stories for as long as she can remember. She left the business world to realize her dream of writing full-time in 2010.
Cathy admits to being an avid people watcher who’s intrigued by the many facets of relationships; as such, her stories often have a romantic leaning and will contain a seed of hope.
When she’s not writing, Cathy enjoys theater, travel, and trying local restaurants. She has a passion for dog rescue. Adopt, don’t shop!
“Redemption of Shadows” is Cathy’s debut novel.
Other stories Cathy has written:
- “Olive Tree Manor” and “Evanescence” in the Writers’ Anarchy anthology, “Flash It!””
- “Calira & the Winds of Draoll” in the anthology, “Darkly Never After.”
- Coming Soon: “Pockets of Change” in “Panthology,” an anthology for charity.
Cathy’s the mother of adult twins, and is an active member in her church and community. She lives in a coastal town where she enjoys long walks with her husband Bob and dog Riley.