I Never Gave Up on My Dream

I never gave up on my dream. That is the key. All it took was the persistence to never give up.

Early on in my life I thought of myself as a journalist and creative writer, but after college I settled for something more practical – technical writing and editing in the aerospace industry. And while I was even able to convince myself that I would never be able to achieve my dream, it kept gnawing on me.

While I worked my day job as a technical writer for over twenty-eight years and in a few other jobs as real estate salesperson, programmer, and fundraiser for non-profits, I took creative detours. I learned to draw and paint, I learned to sew, I made needlepoint pillows, I quilted and gardened. And, I co-authored a non-fiction book, Blue Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs – where the writing was just a little less technical than my work in aerospace. I did anything to keep my creative juices flowing, until I could stand it no longer.  I needed to reconnect with my passion to write.

It finally took a tragedy in my life to help me realize my dream. Here’s how I did it.

When my son was diagnosed bipolar and our family was going through the emotional upheaval his illness created in all our lives, I started to journal. Writing about my son’s illness and later about his suicide death helped me put my pain on the page. I couldn’t show my true feelings even to my husband, because every time he heard me cry, he thought I was having a breakdown. So keeping my fingers moving either across the page or the computer keyboard became my calming and healing balm.

I also started taking writing workshops. At first I felt insecure about my creative writing abilities because they had lain dormant for so long. That changed when I took a workshop called, “Writing about Our Lives” at Esalen in Big Sur, California in the late 1990s. It was there that I wrote about my misgivings about ever being able to make the transition from technical writer to creative writer. Here’s what I wrote: “My writing is so factual, so plain, so devoid of descriptors, feelings, and imagination.” Later I learned that was okay. I discovered a private instructor in Los Angeles who taught me to “write like you talk,” I knew I was on my way. It was also at this workshop that poetry just seemed to come out of my pen.

Once I got into the writing groove I never stopped. I had a memoir published culled from my early journal entries and poems, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir about Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Even finding a publisher took perseverance. Sixty-eight rejection letters later I found the perfect small press to publish my book.

And now, I still write something every day, I journal and write poetry regularly. I write for my own blog and have articles published monthly on several websites. And I am well on my way to completing my first novel. Instead of worrying about my lack of creative abilities, I took the power within me to accomplish my dream. My son’s death gave me that strength and power.


Read more from Madeline Sharples

Madeline Sharples has worked most of her life as a technical writer and editor, grant writer, and proposal manager. She fell in love with poetry and creative writing in grade school and decided to fulfill her dreams of being a professional writer later in her life. Madeline is the author of Leaving the Hall Light On, a memoir about how she and her family survived her older son’s suicide, which resulted from his long struggle with bipolar disorder. She and her husband of 40 years live in Manhattan Beach, CA.

About the Author

Madeline Sharples Madeline Sharples has worked most of her life as a technical writer and editor, grant writer, and proposal manager. She fell in love with poetry and creative writing in grade school and decided to fulfill her dreams of being a professional writer later in her life. Madeline is the author of Leaving the Hall Light On, a memoir about how she and her family survived her older son’s suicide, which resulted from his long struggle with bipolar disorder. She and her husband of 40 years live in Manhattan Beach, CA.

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