Nicola Yoon: Writing Everything Everything

Nicola Yoon: Writing Everything Everything

But, growing up, writing wasn’t something I thought I could be an option for me. I had no idea it was even possible to make money at writing. I grew up poor in Jamaica and Brooklyn. When I got to high school and discovered I was good at math, I put away notions of writing. In college, I majored in electrical engineering. I traded thoughts of an artistic career for thoughts of one where I could make a steady salary and not worry about money. Being good at math was a way to guarantee that I’d never have to be poor again.

Yet, still, I loved writing. In my senior year of college, I took an elective class in creative writing. I wrote terrible poetry about unrequited love. I embarrassed myself by reading it aloud in front of my classmates. I didn’t mind the embarrassment, though, because the writing bug had bitten me once again. But I didn’t believe I could make a living doing it. A career in the arts just seemed too risky.

From college, I went to work in the financial industry. After a couple of years, I went to graduate school and majored in creative writing. But, after graduate school, I found myself heading back to the financial industry—and there I stayed. For twenty-two years, I worked as an analyst and database programmer. During that time, I wrote short stories and even completed a novel. I thought that writing was something I would always do on the side.

And then I had my daughter. One day, when she was still an infant, I was looking at her and a thought occurred to me. Someday, when she was older, I was going to tell her that she should follow her dreams and her passion. I would tell her to not let anything or anyone stand in her way. In that same moment, I realized that I wasn’t following my dreams or my passion. I had buried those dreams under thoughts of safety and practicality. And the only person standing in my way was me.

After that moment, I decided that I was going to really try to achieve my dream. After that moment, it wasn’t so hard to get up every morning. What was a little sleep deprivation compared to a dream unfulfilled? Of course, it wasn’t just persistence that got my book published. There was a lot of luck in there too. But it was the conscious choice to follow that dream, step by sleepy step, that made all the difference.