Words started coming to me. I would be walking down the street in New York, pass a pregnant homeless woman, not give her money, walk another block, hear a gay rights activist ask me for money, write a check to said activist, and think, “I should write about this.” So I would.
I would get in a huge fight with my husband and think, “I should write about this.” And I would.
I would wake up at 3 a.m. with words in my head. I would move them around and put them together until I was wide awake. Then I would turn on my computer, write them all down, and go back to bed.
Most of the things I wrote had no point whatsoever. They were writing for writing’s sake. I had no idea what to do with them or where to go with them. I only knew one thing—the process of it all gave me more joy than anything.
One day, however, I was walking my dog and I was thinking about the type of warped individual who would plan her very healthy husband’s funeral down to the lamb-on-a-stick she would serve the mourners. And then, just like that, the following words came to me, “I knew something was terribly wrong with my marriage when I planned my husband’s funeral.”
When I got back to the house, I wrote that sentence. Then I wrote a bunch of other words after it. I’m sure I should have been working on something else, no doubt something health or diet related, something that I was actually getting paid to write. But I could not stop myself. Before the words stopped, I had an entire chapter.
A few months later, I had 100,000 words.
As I edited—adding more words and deleting close to 60,000 others—I still had that sense that something was in me trying to get out. I decided to start a blog, too. I worried, though, about having enough material. Would I, after a month or so, sit in front of my computer and say, “That’s it. Nothing else to say. Done with this. Blog fail.”
So I carried a yellow legal pad around with me and jotted down one possible blog topic after another. And then I wrote something like 10 blog entries, just to see if I had it in me. Since I wrote all 10 in the same day? I figured I did.
I started this blog.
No one read it at first. Well, let me rephrase that. No one except for my mother, my brother, a few friends, and my literary agent.
But that changed. I had 60 monthly readers for a while. I imagined that they all knew me in some way. They’d worked with me. They’d gone to high school with me. They read my blog because they felt sorry for me.
That sort of thing.
Then, one day, I was looking at Google Analytics and I noticed something strange. I had readers in India. And Pakistan. And in Australia. And a lot of other places where I wouldn’t expect people to be reading my blog because no one could possibly know me there.
My monthly numbers climbed to 200 and then 500 and then 1000 and then 7000. I stagnated there for a while. That was a bad time. I became obsessed with my web traffic. I became depressed about my web traffic. I became demoralized about my web traffic.
I decided that I sucked, was the world’s worst excuse for a blogger, and nobody loved me.
Then an editor found my blog, loved my writing style, and offered me a job as a relationships editor at a large women’s website. Then the recession took place. The website lost its funding and I lost my cool little blogging job.
I felt a sense of impending doom. I was sure I was about to become a big public failure.
That was pretty scary.
I wallowed in doom for about a month.
Then the blog traffic started improving, by a lot. It went to 10,000 then 12,000 then 15,000 and up and up and up. People started emailing me, telling me how much I was helping them. I got emails that said:
“For years I have been trying to find someone that would understand me and I came across your blog and I said to myself, ‘OMG, this is me!’”
“I laughed and laughed when I read your blog. OMG, I had to read it to my husband. I just love the humor in your writing style. I too LOVE to write and your writing style and accomplishments are very inspiring to me.”
“Your site has brought me a sense of calm to know that I am not the only one who feels the way I do and has/is experiencing the same challenges I find myself experiencing. I enjoy your humor, being a jersey born gal…sarcasm is in my blood and I’m also quite blunt and direct in my views and in expressing myself. Sometimes when I read your blogs I’m like, ‘OMG, that is EXACTLY what I think!’”
I saved them all in a file on my computer that I called “Feel Good,” and promised to read them whenever I felt like I was a failure.
The traffic and feedback gave me the courage I needed to try to find a publisher for my book. And when I still didn’t have the courage to do that, my literary agent kicked me in the ass (very gently of course) and told me to get over it. So I did. He sent out a proposal. People liked it. I met with various editors. Running Press agreed to publish it in 2011.
And then really strange things started to happen. One day I got an email from a magazine writer, asking me if I cared to share my best sex tips with her readers. Another day someone from CNN.com wanted to know my take on Jon and Kate’s marriage. Yet another day a writer from Forbes.com wanted to know why I thought marriage was not obsolete. That was incredible. Just awesome incredible.
The past year of blogging has allowed me to earn a reputation as a writer who can make people laugh and feel normal. It’s helped me become a relationships expert who offers advice from the trenches. It’s allowed me to develop my voice and find that unique take on life that only I have.
It has allowed me to very publicly have the courage to be me.
I finally know that I am a writer—a real writer—one who can change people’s lives with the words I put on the page. That’s a phenomenal feeling.
If I pass on nothing else from taking the time to write this life story, I hope I can at least pass on this advice. Do what you most enjoy in life, even if it won’t make you rich. Do it for the process, even if no one understands why you enjoy it so. Do it for the joy of it, even if it brings you no recognition or fame. Do it for yourself, even if no one else thinks you are good at it.
Do it because you have no other choice, because not doing it would make you feel dead inside.
There’s nothing stopping you from living the life you love. But you.