Feb 18

The Writer’s Life

I have been a writer since age 5, but it has taken years for others to realize that.

I was always a writer, or, more directly, I was always writing.  The act of writing does make one a writer, but the subtleties of that are profound.  Writing is an activity that kids do as a school assignment or what adults do in their serious job.  Writing is an element of something else, not a stand-alone profession.  Why should writing be considered anything more than a hobby?  It is for the reader.

I was a child who was not good at sports and had no siblings to annoy or be annoyed by.  I had the time, and I recognized at that early age that I was creative.  My parents encouraged me or at least positively tolerated the hours I spent hunched over a pad of paper.  I kept diaries of thoughts, personal struggles, observations, conversation snippets and story ideas.  My middle school English teacher let me write stories for extra credit.  I continued that in high school, writing one teacher-acclaimed sequel to some book we read in class, some sort of social commentary combining 1984 and the character K-9 from the British TV show Doctor Who.  Then came the big moment: I was editor of my high school newspaper.  I made it; I was a writer.

I guess I was.

Wanting to learn more about the craft of writing, I took enough college poetry, creative nonfiction and fiction classes to obtain an English Writing minor.  Despite this, in my mind I was just a kid writing words.  I was not a writer.

Non-writers defined–and still does to an extent–that a “writer” is someone who earns enough money writing to pay the bills and put food on the table.  I had a full-time “real job”, but I did not define myself by that.  When people asked what I did, I said, “I write.”  Inevitably, the next question was, “Ooh, what do you write?”  My reply was always a bit choked: “I write in my journal.”  Because I could not point to a genre much less an actual published anything, people’s eyes glazed, they gave me a polite “oh,” and then looked over my shoulder as if at a dinner party looking for someone more interesting to talk to.  Society dismissed me.  It’s hard to argue with that; they’re right.

A coworker mentioned that she knew someone at a newspaper who was looking for writers.  The editor and I connected on the phone.  After an introduction and some discussion of my experience, the editor asked, “We really need someone to write a singles beat for us.  Do you know where all the 20-somethings go for fun?”

I was 20-something.  I was single.  I wrote.  “Absolutely!” I said.

No sooner did I hang up with the editor–my editor!–with an introductory article assignment, than I picked it up the phone, called my friend, and asked, “Hey, where do single people hang out around here?”

With a foot, or at least a pen, in the door, that first assignment led to another and then another.  My name was in print in a real publication, a free weekly newspaper.  Yes, you did not pay for it, but the paper had advertisers as well as columns on local news, sports and event.  I was legitimately published, and got paid; therefore, it counted as real.

I wanted some of that non-singles writing action, so I approached the Arts editor.  She gave me an assignment, and suddenly, I had a writing portfolio.

She called me after I submitted my third article and said, “Let’s discuss this piece.  You need to make some changes in your writing.”  She proceeded to take me through my article, line-by-line, and pointed out where my writing needed improvement.  She told me where a verb should be more active (she gave an example), where sentence length should be tweaked (gave example), where a description could be tighter and stronger (gave example) and so on.  I learned more about writing in that hour than I did all my years in college.  I followed her invaluable, free advice, and my writing got stronger.  I noticed it and so did she.

I’ve since written award-winning articles for newspapers and magazines, all a bit of luck, opportunity and skill.  I’ve had my queried ideas accepted, giving me freedom and confidence in my skills.  I published my first eBook in 2013, the first of many.  I’m here to share my perspectives and the struggles I have.  I hope you’ll learn with me as I continue my journey of writing.

I mean, my journey as a writer.

1 comment

    • Book Lover on June 15, 2014 at 5:05 pm
    • Reply

    Diana, you have had a great journey as a writer. Continue to enjoy your journey.

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