A War to Write

September 22, 2013 | By | 28 Replies More

It was August 27th, 2012 when my husband left for Afghanistan the second time.

This deployment was going to be a short one, only nine months.

Writer Kristina James in a Ball Gown

Writer Kristina James – Fighting the good fight to write

I reminded myself of that as I kissed him goodbye, silently praying that this wouldn’t be the last time our lips touched.

His eyes locked with mine letting me know that he was having the same thought. He gave our three daughters a hug and tried to comfort them. Glancing around the hanger I watched as other families were also clinging to every second they had left together. My youngest daughter’s agonizing sobs broke my stare. Her cries had become uncontrollable meaning it was time for us to go. I released my husband’s hand and reached for my children. I forced back the tears that I knew would hurt him and walked away with my head held high.

The parking lot was a blur. The drive home was fuzzy. I kept choking on the sorrow that my daughters didn’t need to hear. I turned on happy music and promised we’d get ice cream after dinner. It took everything in me to make that drive home without breaking down. Once night fell I climbed into bed, reached over to where my husband’s warm body should be and I let myself come undone. He was gone again.

The next morning, with swollen eyes, I prepared for my first day of a new semester. I was attending a local college to become a registered nurse. There hadn’t been a doubt in my mind when I wanted to go back to school for this, after all I had been a medical assistant for years and loved working in the field. We agreed that when the time came for my husband to retire from the Army that I would support our family as a nurse while he looked for his second career. We had a plan, a solid plan.

During my first class, as I listened to the professor talk about clinical hours, assignments and course expectations, it dawned on me that I had no desire to be there. I hadn’t wanted to be there the semester before either, but I was too afraid to admit that to myself, or anyone else.

With more than half of my required courses finished jumping ship didn’t seem logical. The three hour class turned into a war within my mind. I knew that I would be content being a nurse but the passion wasn’t there. I was fighting hard to see it through because I didn’t want to appear as a failure and because I was in denial about the career I wanted to pursue. It wasn’t practical. It couldn’t guarantee a paycheck. How would my husband react to this? Could I even tell him that I wanted to throw away the last 3 years to chase after a pipe dream? What if I didn’t succeed? Or worse, what if I did?

That night I sent my husband an email asking if he would be upset if I gave up my future as a registered nurse to attempt my lifelong dream of becoming a published writer.

Writer Kristina James in Australia

Writer Kristina James in Australia

He hadn’t even arrived in Afghanistan yet. I knew it would take several days before he could respond, but I had to send it while I had the courage. The pragmatic side of me fought every keystroke. It argued that I was destroying the plan we had laid out for our family and that I was being selfish by chasing after something so uncertain. The most terrifying argument was a legitimate one; God forbid, if something happened to my husband, how was I going to support three children without a steady income. That fear alone almost made me hit delete but I didn’t.

Seven days, and a lot of self-torture, later my husband responded to my email.

He replied, “The only way I will be upset is if you do not attempt what makes you happy”. My eyes filled with tears thinking of him on the other side of the world, in a war zone, yet still knowing exactly what I needed to hear.

That afternoon I called the college, switched my degree and allowed myself to start writing again.

While it would make a happy ending for me to say that I have been published, that isn’t the reality of my story.

I am just getting to the point where I’m comfortable sharing blog posts, journal entries and short pieces with others. I am working on a novel but know it’s a long shot to get published.

The self-doubt is a constant battle with the nagging voices inside of me saying that I’ll never make it as a writer. They tell me that I am not good enough. Then if that doesn’t stop me they bring in the big guns; fear. They prey on my vulnerabilities; what will people think if I open myself up and bare my soul through writing. They are nasty little voices. Every day I fight them in this war to write.

I do it to show my daughters that you should never give up on your dreams. I do it because my husband is my biggest fan and I want to create something that we can both be proud of. But most of all I do it for myself, to prove that I am capable of conquering what I once was too afraid to admit that I wanted.

Kristina James is an Army wife, mother and writer. When not kickboxing, running or chauffeuring kids she’s working on her first novel. Follow Kristina at @KristinaJames and on Blogger http://armybluesandtapshoes.blogspot.com/. Her memoir essay “Home” was selected for publishing in our Our Stories journal in the Summer 2013 issue.

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Category: On Writing, US American Women Writers

Comments (28)

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  1. SandraR says:

    Beautifully written and heartfelt. I think you speak for many of us. It is time for all of us to fight off the fear and follow our heart and gift of writing.

    • Kristina James says:

      Thank you! There’s a new year right around the corner…perfect time for all of us to fight the fear and finish those pieces just waiting to be shared with the world! 😉

  2. Siobhan Marshall says:

    A great article Kristina, which really resonated with me as I have the same dream and the same struggle as you (I think they come as a 2 for 1 deal). Right now, at my desk I find myself thinking “I wish I were at home writing, I don’t want to be here”

    It’s great to hear that your partner encouraged you to be brave it shows he must really love you. He scores at least 200 GoodHusband points.

    Every day you sit your butt down at your desk and string a sentence together (any sentence! Even a really terrible one!) you are showing your children how to follow a dream. You will be showing them that there are no overnight successes, that the sweetest success comes from work. I think this is great thing for a child to see, imagine the type of adults they will turn in to. When you tell them that can do anything it will not be a hollow sentiment.

    • Kristina James says:


      Thank you for such wonderful words of encouragement! I hope you get the opportunity to pursue your writing dream. And I agree with you, the dreams and struggles are definitely a package deal! 🙂

      Best of luck to you in all of your endeavors,

  3. Diane says:

    Kristina, What a lovely story. I too,shifted gears just last year.. leaving a job where I was bored,frustrated and unfullfilled to write fulltime. With my husband’s blessing as well! I also started a website to put my writing out there… very scary for me! Bravo to you for taking that leap and to your husband for his love and support or your dreams.

    • Kristina James says:

      I know how much having your husband’s blessing means when you take a leap like that. I’m so glad he is supporting your dreams. I hope writing full time brings you joy, even if you have those days where you question yourself a thousand times over again…I know I have those days! lol

      Best Wishes 🙂

  4. Kristina,
    I see that I’m a little late with a response, but I just read this. And all I can say through the tears blurring my eyes, is Thank you. Your words reflect so much of the same thoughts and feelings I go through every day. I Finished my book last year, and I’m am now in the process of getting it published (self publishing company, which brings with it a whole new set of doubts) I am on such an emotional roller coaster about it. I am very excited, but also very terrified. I have some great support, but when the fear creeps in, it’s a nasty thing to try and get rid of. God Bless you for following your dream. 🙂

    • Kristina James says:

      And same to you Felicia! I’m personally terrified of the whole publishing process…it says a lot about your strength and passion that you are pursuing it. You should be proud of that accomplishment. I wish you nothing but the best of luck!

      P.S. Be sure to post something when the book comes out so I can check it out, and spread the word! 🙂

  5. LM Milford says:

    What a lovely post. Well done for having the courage to follow your dreams. Writing is never easy, nor is making a huge life change, but you have the support of your family. Good luck with the book and hope your husband comes home safe to read it 🙂

    • Kristina James says:

      LM Milford,
      Thank you! He is actually home safe right now…and we are hoping it stays that way for a while! 😉

  6. Penne says:

    Beautiful piece, Kristina. Never give up on your dreams.

  7. Lisa P'Pool says:

    Kristina, this is a wonderful piece. Very heartfelt and full of raw emotion many can relate to. I am always impressed with your writing and very proud of you for going after your dream. Keep it up and I better get your first signed copy of your published novel.

    • Kristina James says:

      I promise yours will be the very first one I sign…but you do remember how bad my handwriting is, right? lol Thank you for always believing in me and my dreams. 2013-14 is looking up for both of us! 😉

  8. Judy Bodmer says:

    Can relate. No matter what level of writer, you fight the voices.

    • Kristina James says:


      That’s good to know. I have often wondered if I will ever write a piece that I feel completely satisfied with. Right now the voices tell me to make my next one better…and I guess a part of me hopes they always will.

      Thanks for sharing!

  9. Your story moved me so much. I really admire you following your dreams and I wish you the best of luck getting published.

  10. Mags Ford says:

    A wonderful heart filled piece of writing. Looking forward to reading your novel 🙂 x

    • Kristina James says:

      Thank you! I’m crossing my fingers that I can get it published…and that it’s something people can relate to and enjoy.

  11. Evan says:

    Ahh yes the sobs of the children that force you back to reality forcing you to be unselfish to snap out of your own agony and once again become the frame to the picture. Picking them up holding your head up and walking out while their little legs dangle and their hot tears saturate your shirt, sweater, jacket or in my case this time a ICS 5k tshirt 😉 Its amazing how just this piece snaps me back to each time we have said good bye but even more it amazes me how strong the bonds of military wives can be when we let them . NO ONE else in the world will EVER understand that moment just as much as no one else will ever understand the complete roller coster ride of emotions this life throws at you chasing your dreams almost always gets placed on the burner that doesn’t seem to operate correctly however when the simplistic burner does see a spark poor a little kerosine and help it grow WONDERFUL piece K!!!! I am proud to call you my sister in this life that only a select few understand 🙂

  12. Amy says:

    Yet another piece that pulls at my heart strings. You’re a wonderful writer and your work needs to be shared with the world. You have taken a step that a lot of people are afraid to even take. I’m so glad you are sharing this journey with us. I look forward to reading your novel when it gets published 😉

    • Kristina James says:

      I’m very afraid but I have some amazing friends that help move me along when I forget how to take another step. 😉
      Thank you for reading and for sharing this journey with me!

  13. Barbara says:

    What an absolutely wonderful piece Kristina…made me well up!

  14. Tara says:

    The deployment goodbye made my heart hurt because it caused me to re-live our goodbye, and I remembered talking to you after yours. I have to say, though, that I am SO proud of you for following your dreams! You are so talented, and I’m thankful that you have a wonderful, supportive husband cheering you on. I might add that you’ve got some great friends who will be here to support you throughout the process, too:)

    • Kristina James says:

      God has truly blessed me with a supportive husband AND friends. Thank you for being there during deployment, afterwards & on this pipe-dream journey. Your support means so much to me! 8..)

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