I know I’ve been posting a lot about my book lately. Today’s post touches on it too (sorry!), but I’m thinking about the bigger question of creativity, and why this particular book, and the process it went through in getting published, feels like a real benchmark for me.

I’m a trauma survivor. Only recently, I’ve started taking ownership of this fact and how it affects me. I grew up in an unsafe environment, and for a long time, I told myself that I just needed to be strong enough to leave all that behind. It “shouldn’t” affect me anymore. It especially “shouldn’t” mean that some things are hard for me, when they might not be for other people. Things like taking care of day-to-day deadlines, managing a tight schedule, and juggling a regular job and home life. For me, emotional overhead can lead quickly to overwhelm and shutdown.

It’s taken me a very long time to realize that some things just are hard for me, and the only way I can get better at them is to honor where I’m starting from. Many trauma survivors deal with a blurry sense of identity. We were often told, somewhere along the line, by someone who had a lot of power over us, that we weren’t who or what we were supposed to be. We had to change and silence ourselves to survive. Then, if we get to place where we’re free, we feel lost. “Who am I really? Is that okay?” When you’re focused on survival, you don’t have as much space to grow. When you’re told you shouldn’t be who you are, you learn to distrust yourself.

For me, writing has been a release, an affirmation, and a survival tool. I was always a voracious reader. Stories and storytelling helped me survive. As an adult, it’s still taken me a while to honor my identity as a writer. When I was first learning the craft, I knew how much I wanted to do this work and how right it felt, but at the same time, I never lost the messaging that this was something else I “shouldn’t be.” Calling myself a writer felt uneasy and shameful. It doesn’t anymore: this is who I am, and I’m glad.

Fourteen Stones, as a fantasy in a created world, is such a pure product of my imagination that it was incredibly tough to believe it might be worth other people’s time. Its journey to publication was another kind of test: finding the path that felt right, as different as that path looked from what I’d thought I “should” want. (Yes, there’s that word again.) It has been amazing to see this story coming into its own, finding readers who are glad to spend time making the trip to Namora and Lassar. The printed book looks so different from my computer-screen original that when I look at the pages, I have to stop and remember that yes, this is my story that I wrote. And…wow.  

That’s why this book feels like a turning point in my professional life. It’s exactly the story I wanted to tell. My publisher presented it as beautifully as I could ask for. Trauma survivors often struggle with owning their voices after learning to silence themselves for so long. It’s hard for us to recognize that we have a right to our truths, and a right to share them when we need to. I still struggle with that every day, but Fourteen Stones has been an important step in recovery.

I’m hoping to find ways to use storytelling to help other people like me, who are reclaiming themselves. Meanwhile, moving forward after Fourteen Stones feels like coming into greater ownership of myself and my voice, and that means a lot.

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