Embracing the Dream of Being a Writer: Mary Anne Perez

Embracing the Dream of Being a Writer: Mary Anne Perez

Mary Anne Perez has wanted to be a writer her entire life. The dream of being a writer first came to her when she was in 7th grade, and sure enough, she went to college to study journalism. After college, she worked as a journalist for ten years, but then found herself out of work when the newspaper industry started going downhill.

Instead of moving to another part of the country to chase dwindling job opportunities in journalism, she decided to stay in Long Beach and transition into a corporate work environment. There, she was able to utilize her editorial skills, and learned new skills like HTML and digital marketing.

But it still wasn’t what she wanted. She spent eight years at one company, and eleven at another.

“The time goes by. Years pass,” Mary Anne told me. “And all that time I still had that dream of writing.”

We can’t always predict how life is going to go, and every person’s life journey is unique. We learn things along the way, we go with the flow, and often we do what we have to do to make ends meet and keep surviving. But some dreams never leave us.

Now, Mary Anne—a natural storyteller, a loving mother, a bright and optimistic woman with many stories to tell—finds herself at a moment in her life when she has the time to pursue this dream that has never left her. She is a writer, and she is embracing it more every day. I am humbled and grateful to have had the opportunity to meet this wonderful woman at this juncture on her writing path.

Every dream needs “a believing mirror,” as Julia Cameron calls it, then a plan, a strategy, and consistent work to bring something to fruition. In the three months of working together, Mary Anne has established a regular daily writing routine, submitted writing to publications, attended writing conferences, and learned tools to help get through the sticky times.

With her permission, I am happy to share some of her responses to our coaching work together. Because creative coaching can be so intimate and private, I want to help others understand what kind of work this is. It’s collaborative, compassionate, and gentle, while opening up doors to new ways of thinking. Having done creative coaching on myself for nearly a decade, I employ my own tools every day, and I am gratified that I can share what I’ve learned with others.

Here’s what she says about her experience in a short interview we did together over coffee. 

What are you working on, and how is it going?

“I’m still kind of figuring out what I want to write, because I want to write a lot of different things. You know, I’ve got maybe five or six ideas that are things I have actually put work into and have started writing. I want to write a blog about riding the blue line, I want to write about Simon’s Brick Company, I want to write about my dad’s Navy experience, I want to write about my grandmother.”

What challenges are you facing, and what are you learning?

“Now I have the time to write, but I also still have self-doubts. Or I did—before I started working with you. Having worked at newspapers for ten years, I know how to write a story, beginning, middle, end, the important things, how to do research. But writing the stories I want to tell is different. There are these lingering self-doubts, little thoughts that pop up like, ‘No one is really interested in what I have to say.’

So when I first started working with you, I think it was the first or second meeting we had, you just kind of blew that out of the water. You asked me to investigate my thoughts and asked, 'Why is that not true? What can you tell yourself, that you already know, that makes that not true?’ So now I’m reminding myself that in the same way I enjoy reading stories by other writers, there are people our there who want to read my stories. I am the only person able to tell these particular stories. And they are important stories to be told.

And the other thing I learned from you that’s just as valuable, or more valuable, is to give myself credit for the work I do.

Every day when I am reading something, whether it’s related to what I’m writing or not, it’s still part of the writing process. If I’m walking the dog and I’m thinking about what I want to write that’s part of the process, too. Part of being a writer is being self-critical, but when we’re too critical of ourselves, it can become a self-defeating cycle. So I give myself credit: I sat down and wrote for 25 minutes this morning. Or I sat down and read an article in a journal. Or finished reading a book.

It’s all part of this life that I’ve wanted. And I feel like I have more of the tools that I need to make this dream so much more real.”

What’s your current goal, or what is it that you want to get to?

“I signed up for a writing workshop, partly to help me with discipline. I need more discipline. It’s easy for me to start projects and it’s very difficult for me to finish. So I want to start finishing things. I talked to one of the teachers this week, asking if I should be working on one large piece or a few smaller pieces. And you know, she said I can do whatever I want. Right now, I’m working on thinking more concretely about what’s going to be a book, what’s going to be an essay, what’s going to be a series of essays. Just sort of figuring out what everything’s going to be.”

What did you like about creative coaching?

“I liked your organization, professionalism and openness to my creative journey. I count on people delivering on their promises and you always came prepared with your folder, and sending me the notes afterward. I’ve looked on a few of those notes and they remind me of things I learned in our meetings. Your commitment to the creative journey is infectious. I find myself hearing your words, reminding myself of the importance of continuing on and looking forward to creating, in one form or another, every day.

Your experience goes beyond your years and it was such a gift to be able to learn so much from you.

Mostly, your knowledge of what can get in the way of a creative life and how to confront those things and move beyond them, really helped me to slough off the doubts and insecurities I came into the sessions with.”

And here is her extended testimonial:

“I worked with Nancy for three months, and in that time, I gained confidence in my goal to be a full-time writer.

Nancy outlined how to set and achieve short- and long-term goals. In each meeting, we chatted about what was going on with me, the self-doubts about achieving my goals, feelings of, ‘Who really cares (to read what I have to say) anyway?’ Gently, she asked questions about where the doubts were coming from. She helped me understand that I already had the answers to those kinds of questions. The answers affirmed my mission to follow my passion to be a writer. She made suggestions on what to do when those insecurities come up.

What I learned from her made a big difference in how I approach every day. Instead of being deadline-oriented and having harsh and negative thoughts because I’m not exactly where I think I ‘should’ be, I am now able to give myself credit for the work I put in every day. The negative thoughts interfere with the flow of creativity, while positive thoughts are just the opposite. I gained an appreciation for asking for and receiving help in other parts of my life as well, like hiring a personal trainer at the gym and signing up for a workshop. We all need guidance from time to time. As adults, we can find our teachers. I’m very happy to have found a kind and knowledgeable teacher in Nancy to help guide me on my journey.”

Thank you, Mary Anne, for opening up to the creative process, and inviting me in to support you on your journey! Negative thoughts about our creative ideas, our abilities, and our artistic or entrepreneurial path are normal and natural, but they don’t have to define us, or keep us stuck. The good news is that we all have the capacity to learn new habits, new ways of thinking, and new strategies to help keep us buoyed and moving through the creative process as it unfolds. This deep inner work can be so transformative, and Mary Anne was ready to move through the blocks to establish a sustainable writing life for herself. I’ll be looking forward to seeing how the writing develops and am always supportive of the journey!