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.