"I knew it was you before I even read the byline of the article," she said to me. "No one else has your voice."
It was a throwaway comment from a friend—she probably doesn't even remember saying it. But I tasted those words for weeks because they came after a hard-won battle.
Six years ago, I quit writing. After more than 20 years of calling myself a writer, I laid the dream down in the ground, heaped on a bit of earth, and walked away. There were many reasons why I quit writing, but the final nail in the coffin was the literary agent who told a roomful of hopeful writers if we didn't have a huge platform (think mega-church pastor) to recommend us, then we'd be lucky to have a unique enough voice to ever be published. Quite right, quite right, murmured the packed room taking notes at the writer's conference, all while my carefully curated dreams of sitting across from Oprah discussing my book's inclusion in her book club crumbled to dust.
I knew the truth in that moment: I had no voice. Even though I loved to write and had a knack for a phrase now and then, I knew, quite clearly after listening to that literary agent, that my voice did not exist, and so I could not be published. That night, I had a come-to-Jesus moment in my hotel room. This sounds a lot more romantic than it was. In reality, there was a lot of wadded up tissue and the bitter sense I had been chasing rainbow gold that did not exist. I was a failure.1