A Husband's Faith Bolsters a Writer's Dream
Author Debbie Macomber discusses her early struggles and the role that Dr. Norman Vincent Peale played in helping her to achieve her dream.
"Honey, you need to find a job.” It was early 1980 and my husband, Wayne, stood in the kitchen doorway, clutching a handful of unpaid bills. My stomach clenched and I swallowed an automatic protest before I saw the look of regret in his eyes. We were going deeper into debt each month while I struggled to sell my first novel.
From as long as I could remember, I dreamed of writing novels. My love for the written word started early, when my mother took me to the library for story hour. From the time I was three years old, I went to sleep at night with a book in my hands. I discovered the powerful connection between the story and the reader. I could feel what the characters felt, cry with them, laugh with them. I wanted to write stories like that. I dreamed of the day when readers would hold my book in their hands.
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You might be surprised to know that reading didn’t come easy to me. I was the only girl in my first-grade class to be in the robin (slow) reading group. It turned out that I was dyslexic, but back in the early 1950s my teachers didn’t have a word for it. I can remember my third-grade teacher telling my mother, “Debbie is such a nice girl, but she’ll never do well in school.” To this day I’m a slow, thoughtful reader and a creative speller.
Nevertheless, the dream persisted. I wanted to write books. When Wayne and I married and had our four children in quick succession, it was easy to stuff my dreams into the future with a long list of justifications and excuses. Then a dear cousin died suddenly. It felt as if God was saying to me that if I was ever going to write, the time was now. Life is short. Get started.
We rented a typewriter and I put it on the kitchen table. The kids would go out the door to school and Super Mom was transformed into that hopeful young writer. For two and a half years I sat at that kitchen table and pounded away on those typewriter keys, completing two full novels. Because I was doing something I loved, I was genuinely happy. Because I was pursuing a lifelong dream, I was a better wife and better mother.
But everything came to a crashing halt that Sunday afternoon. Wayne set down the unpaid bills. Together we reviewed our finances and I realized there wasn’t any alternative. I had to get a job, a real job, that would contribute to our family income.
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With the newspaper in hand, I circled three positions to apply for the next morning. Even if I was fortunate enough to get hired right away, I’d be lucky to receive anything above minimum wage.
As I looked up from the newspaper, my gaze fell on the typewriter and I knew this would be the end of my dream of selling a novel. All four children were involved in sports, music, Scouts and church. There simply weren’t enough hours in the day for me to keep up with the kids’ schedules, work full-time, maintain the house and still write. I might as well kiss that dream good-bye.
What was the use anyway? Really, what chance did I have of selling a novel? Everyone said I had to know someone if I was ever to get published—an editor, an agent, someone in the business. I didn’t, and that was just one more strike against me.
Doubts battered me as I considered those three want ads. There wasn’t anything wrong with any of them, except that I had no desire to work as a receptionist or a cashier. I was born to tell stories—only now that dream had to be dashed.