By Dallas Woodburn
By all rights, I should not be writing this. I should not even be here at all. I was born three months prematurely, weighing a mere two pounds, six ounces. For the first few months of my life, I was in the hospital, kept alive by feeding tubes and a respirator. My harrowing entrance into the world is a daily reminder for me of the fragility of life, and to pursue my dreams with both joy and urgency. Dreams are too important to "put off" till tomorrow!
I have loved to write for as long as I can remember. When I was in fifth grade, I self-published my first book, There's a Huge Pimple on My Nose: A Collection of Stories and Poems. It received a glowing review in the Los Angeles Times: “If you simply want to enjoy some remarkable writing, it would be hard to find a book more satisfying.” Now, more than twenty years later, it is still popular among young audiences and is even being adapted into a song-cycle by a composer at Carnegie Mellon University!
My second book, 3 a.m., also received high praise and was featured on the national book talk show “Between the Lines” on PBS. In addition to fiction, I have also written nonfiction for publications including Family Circle, Writer's Digest, The Los Angeles Times, and more than a dozen Chicken Soup for the Soul books.
Yet, along with the successes I have been fortunate enough to enjoy, there have been plenty of disappointments. I believe the most important component of being a writer is not artistic talent or creativity or storytelling ability (though all of those things are valuable!) However, I think the most crucial trait of a successful writer is perseverance.
The night I was born, a doctor who was caring for me told my father, “Your daughter is a fighter.” Still today, I draw strength from those words. My mantra has become “PAST – Preemies Are So Tough.”
Whenever I feel down or discouraged—whether it’s from writer’s block or a story that goes nowhere or yet another rejection letter—I remind myself of my PAST. Compared to being kept alive by a respirator and feeding tubes, nothing seems insurmountable.
Dallas Woodburn is the author of two collections of short stories and a forthcoming novel. A 2013-14 John Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing, she has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and her work is forthcoming in American Fiction 13: The Best Unpublished Short Stories by American Writers. Connect with her at http://dallaswoodburn.blogspot.com/ and http://www.writeonbooks.org.