I had a great English teacher in high school, Mr. Moeller. He taught us how to analyze the great short stories, and he guided us through the process of writing our own. He thought I had some talent and encouraged me to enter a contest. The story I submitted was based on the Springsteen song Downbound Train, and while I thought it was brilliant, the judges did not agree. I didn't have the requisite thick skin to be a writer, and that one bump in the road was enough to bring my fledgling writing carer to a screeching halt.
A couple summers ago I decided to give writing another chance. I had an idea and quite possibly the requisite will to make it a book. I wrote about 70 pages that first summer. Not Stephen King productivity, but I felt pretty good about it. Then I got a little sidetracked.
Personal experience gave me an idea for a short story, and I couldn't resist. It actually made me feel like a writer to have two things going at once. I hacked the story out over the next month or so, and then let it sit for a while, going back to the book. Eventually I asked a few people to give me feedback on the story, and that was very helpful. I let the story sit some more, and then I did some revisions.
When I felt the story was ready, I researched literary journals and began submitting. The first place I sent the story was Narrative, perhaps the most established online literary journal. Narrative sent a rejection email this week, and while I am disappointed, I'm not deterred. I've submitted the story to two other publications, and even if they both reject the story, I'll keep submitting. In a weird way, this rejection makes me feel even more like a writer. I put myself out there, and that's something. Rejection is part of the process. I wasn't able to handle that at 17. I am now.