I've been writing since I was twelve, give or take, off and on. I only got serious about it in my twenties, when I started writing novels. In fact, I wrote four novels during my twenties that will never see the light of day. I call them my "experiments." My "million bad words." I wrote them, playing with the art form, figuring out for myself how to write a novel, how to craft a story and make characters rich. During those years, I also went to writers conferences, read books, and learned how to enrich my prose -- avoid cliches, trim wordy passages, "show" instead of "tell." Those were my years spent climbing the ladder. Paying my dues. (And those dues paid off in more ways than one - I now teach Creative Writing courses and pass along the invaluable wisdom I learned during those years to my students).
Now, I'm working toward the goal of publication. Three years ago, I wrote the first book of a series, then the second, then the third. And after querying widely last year, I got myself an agent! (*still pinching myself*). He's submitting the series to publishers now, and I'm crossing all my fingers and toes...and am still working while I wait. I'm revising Book 2 and Book 3, and hope to finish Book 4 this summer.
Just because it's taken me a long while to get where I am in this process doesn't mean that every writer's journey will be this way. But I wouldn't change a single minute of my journey, my years'-long apprenticeship. Because it's given me time. Time to study the Masters (reading, reading, reading), to attend writer's conferences and meet other writers online, to learn more about myself as a writer, to study and improve upon my craft -- and all of it makes me the writer I am today. Oh, I'm still learning. As I tell my students, no writer should ever stop learning, ever stop improving. But that's the beauty of this writing journey. It's fluid. I love the ebb and flow, the waxing and waning of it. And I can't wait to see where the tide will take me next!