how I (actually) became a writer

Step 1: Decided to be a novelist (age unknown)

Step 2: Spent high school world building, got nowhere, decided to go to college as an English Major so I could “learn how to write”

Step 3: Did not learn how to write. Did get to read some cool books I would never have read on my own, though.

Step 4: Graduated from college with broader horizons, but no more writing than I’d done in high school.

Step 5: Got a sucky job, played a lot of warcraft, dreamed about being a writer, wrote very little.

Step 6: Read the following quote by Hemingway:

Those who say they want to be writers, and aren’t writing, don’t.

Step 7: Woke up.

That was really it, right there. I can actually remember the very moment, the actual second it happened. I was sitting at my desk at said crappy job wasting time on the internet until I could go home, and I stumbled across that quote on one of the many writing sites I used to haunt while I was “waiting for my chance to be a writer.” It truly was like waking up. I could suddenly see how stupid I’d been, how silly. Here I was, at a job where I got primarily got paid to surf the internet, no kids, no obligations, free time coming out my ears, and I was waiting? Sitting there, in my chair, letting the other secretary get the phone, I realized that all this time I was in love with the idea of being a writer, of having written, and not with writing itself, primarily because I had done so little of it.

So I changed. Right there, I changed. I set out a schedule for myself (short stories, this was before I knew I was bad at them) and a ten year plan. I was going to have my first book published by the time I was 24 (I was 22 at the time, ah youth), and I was going to be writing full time by the time I was 30. There was lots of other stuff I’ve forgotten, but those two stick out. The first one I missed by miles, but the second I might still hit if I don’t slack off.

After the revelation (which I think of as my superhero origin… not much of one, but I’m not much of a superhero :P), I wrote every day. There were days off, of course, lazy days, failure days, technical difficultly days, but even after I’d miss a few days, a few months, I always came back. Not because I loved it, and here’s a dark truth, I don’t always love writing. Some days I hate it more than I knew I could hate. Some days I’m just eh about it. But I do it, because of step 1 waaay at the top of the post. It was my childhood dream to be a writer, to tell these stories that I’m constantly in love with, so every day I write and, eventually, a novel comes out. That’s when I love being a writer.

6 Responses to “how I (actually) became a writer”

  1. 1 Tim Pratt
    March 21, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    My goal back in my early twenties (I say goal instead of “plan,” since I try to reserve “plan” for things I can actually control) was to sell my first novel by 30 and be a full-time novelist by 40. Managed the first, but the second seems less and less likely. My plan hasn’t changed much though: write a book, write another book, write yet another book, etc.

    I’ll keep writing as long as it’s fun and/or financially remunerative. Ideally it’ll remain both for a long time!

  2. 2 rachelaaron
    March 22, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Well, you’ve got some pretty rad books out. If anyone can make it, you can!

    I’m fortunate enough to live in a lovely, cheap town and have lovely, cheap vices, like books, writing, and video games. The financial bar for me to become a full time writer is very low. But hey, who says low jumps are always bad?

  3. March 31, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    I became an English major for the same reason, though it wasn’t the major that helped me become a better writer, it was editing the campus literary review. (That is, not the one with student work.) I will give testimony to anyone who asks that becoming an editor is a great way to see glaring mistakes as well as blatant skill at many different levels.

    Though it still took my future wife lighting a fire under me to get me to stop talking about writing seriously after a long hiatus, and getting back to it. 🙂

    Now if I could just convince people that I’m perfectly serious when they ask how I write a novel and I answer “I type a lot”…

  4. May 22, 2009 at 6:53 am

    Great story. I love that quote. How true. Thanks for being transparent, honest, and humble. Glad that it’s working out well for you now.

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