In 2012, I was in a dark place.
I struggled to get out of bed in the morning; I hated leaving our apartment on my own; I was as terrified of writing as I was of not writing.
On the rare occasions when I did write, I sat in candlelight, music blaring through my headphones.
I usually gave up on these writing sessions. I'd declare them a waste of time, wondering why I even bothered. Why did I have to be a writer? Why couldn't I dream of being something less creative, like an accountant? What was the point in being a writer if everything I wrote sucked?
I had these internal monologues daily as I fought between wanting to write and never feeling good enough to.
Then my maternal grandmother had a stroke. Almost losing the woman that raised me made me realise just how fragile life really is. I didn't want to die having never even tried to achieve my dream.
I began to rework a series I'd been writing for almost a decade.
With self-publishing, there are no gatekeepers to reject your story because it doesn't fit the market. Decisions are made by authors and readers, no one else.
I wanted that control. I wanted that creative freedom.
If I published my books myself, I could publish them when I was ready, not when someone else was. I wouldn't have to waste years trying to find an agent and publisher, then making further changes to turn them into someone else's vision. Every decision would be up to me.
In the space of a year, I wrote over 200,000 words. I designed the book cover. I edited and proofread the manuscript. I formatted the print and digital editions. I marketed the book. I hosted a launch event. All while working full-time and buying my first house.
I learnt more in those twelve months than in any other year of my life.
My self-imposed goal gave me something to work towards. It kept me motivated when I didn't want to keep going. I learnt self-discipline, time management, and how to better prioritise my to-do list.
If I slowed down, the monsters in my head tried to come back, but for the first time, I had control. I was working on something that made me feel productive and would allow me to leave my mark on the world. Nothing could take that away from me.
Projecting my mental health issues onto my characters helped me to deal with them, but the most cathartic part was seeing a project from start to finish. I'd never committed to something like that before. I'd never had the impetus to. I still didn't have the confidence to. But I was adamant I'd find it.
Putting my first novel up for preorder was one of the most terrifying things I've ever done. It was a new step in my writing journey. Everything past that point led me deeper into the unknown. But there was no going back - I'd already announced the publication date and begun to organise the book launch.
When What Happens in New York appeared on Amazon, I was filled with pride. I'd done it. My book was almost ready to be unleashed into the world.
I published a book to prove to myself that I could; that the monsters in my head didn't have to win.
And I did it. I reached my goal. There were some obstacles along the way, but as I look back, I know that I've grown stronger because of them. I know that as I publish each book, I'll grow stronger and more determined still.
When it came to submitting my second and third books for preorder earlier this year, it almost felt like no big deal.
I still get nervous introducing new writing to the world, but what writer doesn't? What matters is that I've proven to myself that I really can achieve whatever I set my mind to.
And you know what? So can you.