Today we welcome Heather Cobham of Oriental, North Carolina, to Write from the Inside Out. Besides being an author, she’s a licensed clinical social worker and works as a counselor in a private practice in New Bern, North Carolina. I’ve known Heather for over 7 years when she lived in Raleigh and we attended a women’s small business networking group. I’m thrilled to see Heather achieve her dream of writing and publishing a novel! So enjoy her post about the lessons she’s learned as a first time novelist so you can be better prepared for your writing/publishing journey.
For the past six years I’ve been working on my novel, Hungry Mother Creek—writing, going to writing workshops, editing, seeking advice, figuring out the maze of publishing options. In March I self-published Hungry Mother Creek.A dream come true. It’s overwhelming that the story and characters that have been in my head for six years are now being discovered by my readers. As I’ve reflected on my journey from inspiration to publication three important lessons stand out to me. Many of you have already published multiple times and may have already learned these lessons, but as I begin on my second novel, I realize they are always important to keep in mind.
First, to achieve anything that pushes your limits, you have to believe in yourself. As soon as I decided to write a novel self-doubt set it. That harsh inner critic said, “Who are you to write a novel;” “You’ll never finish;” “Nobody will want to read it.” And on and on. I did my best to ignore this voice, but sometimes I wouldn’t write for a month or more because it was so strong. As time went on I got better at ignoring my inner critic. My mantra became, “Keep writing. Just keep writing.” I began to pay more attention to the calm and steady inner voice saying I could to this. As I sit here with my novel in hand and some positive feedback from readers, I see which voice was correct. I believe ignoring my tough inner critic allowed me to achieve something I was meant to do.
Secondly, writing Hungry Mother Creek reinforced the power of patience. I didn’t know how long the whole process would take when I started writing. I got frustrated along the way when I didn’t feel I was making fast enough progress. But what was fast enough? It was mainly my inner critic again saying I was going too slowly. I kept writing when I could and celebrated the small steps along the way, scenes developing into chapters, chapters printed and put in a notebook, unedited rough draft, first edited draft, second edited draft and so on. I held onto the vision of holding my book in my hand and trusted all the small steps would get me there eventually. The day I completed my first draft there was a motivational post on my Facebook page. The picture was a pile of small turtles and the quote was from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.”
Lastly, writing Hungry Mother Creek showed me how interconnected we all are. Nobody achieves anything without the influence of others. Hungry Mother Creek would not be here without family and friends believing in me when my self-doubt flared, teachers helping me improve my writing, other authors inspiring me with their words, Alice, my editor, providing me with grammatical and plot feedback, technical support helping me with formatting and webpage design. Reaching out for help, support and advice allowed me to achieve a dream that I would have never attained alone and I’m eternally grateful for everyone who was on the journey with me.
As you follow your passion for writing believe in yourself and learn to quiet your inner critic, have patience and faith that small steps will lead you to the completion of your project and finally, embrace your interconnectedness and let others support, inspire and teach you. Just keep writing!
Heather Cobham lives in Oriental, North Carolina, with her husband and yellow lab. She is a licensed clinical social worker and works as a counselor in a private practice in New Bern, North Carolina. She writes on Fridays and on the weekends and is currently working on the sequel to Hungry Mother Creek. Heather fights writer’s block by running, paddle boarding and kayaking