You can find the books mentioned below on the Goodreads Author page I made back then (shame shame shame)
I felt like writing a piece on hopes and dreams versus reality, so here you go:
I’m at that age now where people consider me an adult and expect me to be able to make decisions for myself. But honestly, I’ve never been good at making decisions, probably because I’m autistic. And my anxiety, fear of failure and depression have made (seemingly*) big decisions in my teenage years very hard.
*they seemed big to me, but not always to people I shared my doubts with
Anyway, I have finally reached a point where depression and anxiety don’t bother me the same way it did when I was a teen. They’ll never truly be gone, but let’s just say that last year around this time, I was in deep.
Nowadays, I get this thing I like to call ‘post-poned anxiety’, because it’s basically anxiety that happens either during, shortly after or the day after something that would usually make me very anxious beforehand. I’m quite fine with that, to be honest.
As for depression, that one only returns during PMS and during my period. I’m just really sensitive to hormonal changes and such, I’ve found.
Anyway, getting off topic – hopes and dreams versus reality.
As a kid, I wanted to be an Archaeologist. I then found out archaeology wasn’t what fictional characters like Indiana Jones and Lara Croft did… Yet I’m studying archaeology now, so I guess child-me would be kind of satisfied?
Later, I wanted to be an Egyptologist. I caught the Egyptomania, and people encouraged it. However, when I announced I wanted to study Egyptology at University, this was discouraged. People feared I wouldn’t be able to find a job in such a specified field.
I also wanted to be a writer, since the age of 12 or so. A trip to Egypt with my awesome aunt and uncle and my never-ending obsession with ancient Egypt – *cough* autistic obsession *cough* – fueled my imagination. I wrote two books in a series I called ‘Geschreven op Papyrus’, which means ‘Written on Papyrus’ in English. I drew pictures for the book, inked them and scanned them, then colored them and added them to the Word document. I tried to get my first book published and found a printing-on-demand* publisher that wanted to work with me. I was 13 at the time and was expected to edit my own book. Of course, I asked my family for help. My mom and I spent far too much time trying to remove all the typos and correct the formatting. For my second book, we called in the help of my aunt and a friend of my mom’s who liked my first book.
*printing-on-demand means that books are printed based on the amount of orders, not in bulks like with traditional publishers
I didn’t just illustrate the book, I illustrated the cover as well. And I did it all using Gimp 2, which is a free software somewhat similar to Photoshop. (I later tried Photoshop and it’s way better, but not free. I would personally recommend Krita as a free software nowadays)
My books were appreciated. They weren’t best-sellers by far, but I managed to sell about 50 copies of both the first book and its sequel. I had a five-book series in mind, but eventually lost interest. I believe I still have the first part of book three on my laptop, haha! Both my books were nominated as Best Book of the Year in the Youth category of my publisher’s own contest. I actually won an honorary prize for my second book! And the weirdest part is that the judges told me I plagiarized, because they didn’t believe I – 14 years old at the time – could write such a thing. That prize (and the 250 euros of prize money) was a huge stimulant.
But then, I started reading more books in English. And so, I started writing more in English as well. By the age of 16, I had finished a Young Adult Scifi manuscript I called ‘When Set Ablaze’. Being a naive teen, I queried this manuscript before diving into the world of beta readers and critique partners.
And that’s when reality hit. I got some very encouraging feedback, as well as very discouraging feedback. I cried and I smiled. Around that time, my depression really hit, so entering the turbulant world of writing as a sensitive teen with mental health problems was… difficult.
About a year later, I finished the first draft of my Young Adult Fantasy novel. I called it ‘The Girl in Man’s Armor’. It was inspired by the story of Mulan, and I realize now that this is appropriation. It was also quite dismissive of trans people, which I am very ashamed of.
When I first started querying TGIMA, I got really positive responses. But then those responses turned into disappointments. They were interested in the concept, liked my voice, but didn’t like the way I executed the plot.
I can hear you thinking: did you beta and/or swap your work with critique partners before querying?
Yes, I did! I got some amazing feedback from people. I entered contests to win professional feedback and even paid affordable beta readers and freelance editors with the money I made from delivering leaflets*.
*I found it very hard to socialize with beta readers and critique partners and decided I was a pain to work with, so I paid people. Don’t be like depressed Rachel, please
But in the end… I had to let The Girl in Man’s Armor go as well. It was my first attempt at fantasy, it wasn’t bad, I was proud and ashamed of it… It was better than When Set Ablaze. I was improving! Obviously, I didn’t see it that way.
I haven’t finished writing a first draft of a manuscript since 2016/2017. I have been writing, but not with the goal of getting published. I got 50+ rejections for WSA and 25-50 rejections for TGIMA*. Agents and publishers were encouraging, but also crushing to my sensitive, depressed and anxious teenage self.
*I could have kept querying until after the hundreds, but decided to spare myself that pain
And officially speaking, I’m still a teen now. But I’m also an adult. I’ll be 20 in June, I can vote, I could get my driver’s license, but am too anxious to do so (and autistic. Writing and autism is currently being debated on Twitter).
I write when I have the time, when I’m in the mood, when I feel inspired. I write until my anxiety gets too overwhelming, then I stop.
I write the stories I wanted, no… needed to read as a teen. Stories with main characters that are autistic, that struggle with depression and/or anxiety.
And I still dream of a day when those stories could be published and read by those who need and appreciate them. But that’s not my goal. My goal is to enjoy myself, to enjoy writing again the way Egypt-obsessed 12-year-old me did years ago.
Maybe one day I’ll finish the first draft of a manuscript again. Maybe one day I’ll dive back into the writing world and look for beta readers and/or critique partners within the writing community. And maybe one day, I’ll dive back into the slush pile (querying), or find a POD publisher, or try self-publishing…
Who knows! So long as my mental health remains stable and I am able to enjoy writing, I’ll keep doing it.
That’s it. That’s all I have for you today.
And if you’re a writer too, I’d like to recommend these writers on Youtube:
It honestly feels very weird to write about myself like this, so please let me know if you care for it or not. I might make a part II about my venturing into traditional and digital art, if people are interested in that.
Hope you have a nice day, and feel free to ask me any questions you may have!
(A very ungraceful and autistic mortal woman)