When I share my story about my life and career path, I almost always share the first time I remember falling in love with writing. I was in third grade in Mrs. Beach’s class. I wrote a story for fun about how a cow got loose in my suburban neighborhood. And thus set in motion the entire rest of my life. Seriously.

By the time I was in fourth grade, I was writing fiction books for fun. Now, let me also not give you the impression that I was a savant. These “books” were pages and pages of my stories. Sometimes I would break them up into chapters. It wasn’t stellar writing, but it was writing and I loved it.

I’m an introvert. And I’m a shy introvert. That was true in childhood. Writing served me well as an outlet and still does to this day. Those stories grew and changed through the years. I began with the idea in elementary school that I’d be a teacher and a writer on the side. By the time I was a junior in high school, I felt God leading me to journalism. I signed up for newspaper class at school and was editor-in-chief my senior year.

I stuck with the journalism all through college and graduate school. I picked magazine journalism to specialize in because I had a great desire to write positive stories. I have essays I wrote for college scholarships talking about how I wanted to be a positive voice in the midst of so much negative media. That hasn’t changed in the 22 years since. I still feel the same today, even though the forms of media have changed and evolved with technology through the years.

I still love writing. No matter what I’m doing, it remains a part of me. I have taught magazine journalism at the college level as an adjunct professor and enjoyed that. (I found it ironic that the kid who thought she’d be a teacher and write on the side became a writer who taught on the side!)

In 2003, I began my own freelance writing business, Written Creations, LLC, under which I still operate. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to do work that I love. I know not everyone is afforded that privilege. I am blessed by the support and encouragement I’ve had through the years. My parents have encouraged me. For many years, my mom was my proofreader. She has read more of my writing than anyone else in this world and has encouraged me every step of the way. She is the one who gave me a love for words and reading from an early age.

I also had teachers throughout my school career who impacted my writing as well. Mrs. Beach started it all with reading my cow story out loud to my class. The following year, I had Mr. Miller and a student teacher named Mr. Miles. I was mortified when they read a class assignment of mine out loud as an example. We were to write a story about being stuck on a deserted island and how we would get rescued. My story ended with being rescued by Kirk Cameron, with whom I rode off into the sunset and married. I was so embarrassed, but I didn’t stop writing!

In high school, I learned so much about grammar from Ms. Seibold. She ran a tight ship, but that freshman honors English class taught me grammar lessons I still use today and improved my writing. My junior English teacher, Mrs. Hoopingarner, was also tough. She highly criticized an essay of mine. I made some minor edits to it. When that essay won first prize in a local contest, I was thrilled and realized that everyone has a different opinion — and sometimes teachers are wrong.

My most influential professor in college was definitely Dr. David Sumner. He was the head of the magazine sequence and I had him for many classes. He challenged and encouraged me.

While I had my fair shares of ups and downs in school, I never doubted my career path. I knew that writing was for me as much as I knew that breathing was for me. In my career since then as a freelance writer, it’s also been up and down. Yet, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I am thankful for my husband who has been my support and encouragement for so many years ever since we were 14 and 16. He has kept me going when I felt discouraged. He’s reminded me of my dreams when they started to get cloudy. He sacrifices having a career he is passionate about just so that I have the freedom to live out my dreams. I am blessed.

Writing has been a constant companion for me. It all started with that story I wrote in third grade and a light bulb went off in my brain. I doubt there is anyone I knew growing up who is surprised that I’m a writer today. Heck, I even drew a picture of author Judy Blume for a career goal project I did in fifth grade.

And I say all of this for two reasons. First, as a parent, this makes me realize the importance of encouraging my kids as they are trying things. If I had written that story and loved writing it but my parents and teacher had ignored it or criticized it and told me I was wasting my time, my life might have been completely different — and not in a positive way.

Second, I want to encourage you to find your passion and start living it however you can. Maybe you have a different version of this story and your passion was stomped on by someone. Or maybe you are telling yourself that you aren’t good enough, other people are more qualified, your dream is stupid or you don’t deserve it. Pish posh! Seriously! Let it go. Take a step today — no matter how small — toward doing something you are passionate about. Maybe you need to take a class to learn more. Check into what is available in your area. Maybe you need to find funding to start a business. Start researching to figure out how to do so.

We all have a passion for something. We all have a purpose and something we were created for. It doesn’t have to be something that you make your whole life and your full-time job. That isn’t always feasible or practical. But find some way to start living that passion. You can do it!

About the Author: Stacey A. Shannon

Stacey A. Shannon is a freelance journalist and blogger who has been published internationally. She has had nearly 1,000 articles in various print publications and written innumerable blog posts. You can find her these days at FamiliesWithGrace.com where she writes about family and faith to encourage parents in building homes filled with grace, love and faith.