How and when did you become a writer?

Be yourself – it’s the one thing you can do better than anyone else.

American actress and singer, Ethel Merman, was born on this day in 1908 (died 1984).

In spite of my prior snarking about all of the gurus who want to sell me their amazing programs to make me a published author in the next sixty-three seconds, I do spend some time reading other sites, and checking out the advice of other writers.

So, I’m currently on an email list for the DIY MFA book club. As such, I get a daily writing prompt and am encouraged to both blog and share that. This prompt was from last week, so I’m not exactly doing a great job of keeping up.

We were asked to talk about how and when we became a writer.

Mug Shots
(click the pic)

I’m not sure it was sufficient to say I was born one.

I’ve talked before about hitting my fifties and accepting the fact that it was okay to say “I am a writer” and not “I want to be a writer.”

Up until that point it had been my goal, my dream if you will, to retire from the day job and write full-time. That’s still a goal and a dream.

But what I realized was that I’m a writer now. While I may not be full-time, or may not (yet) be on The New York Times Bestseller list, I’m still a writer.

Some days, a good one.

So, I thought about the question and how I would answer.

In reality, I think I’ve always known I’m a writer.

Maybe it started with that special writing project I was part of in the fifth grade.

Maybe it started when a bunch of friends got together in seventh grade and “wrote” a mock newspaper that never really went anywhere.

Maybe it was in high school when I wrote for the real school paper and later became editor.

Maybe it was college when I wrote for the school paper and moved to the publishing offices across the hall to edit the yearbook my junior year.

After college, I didn’t pursue a writing career. Somewhere around here there’s a post of how I went through three college majors and then wasn’t sure where to go after that.

I walked across the platform to receive my diploma not sure if I was coming back to add an education degree, going across the street to the seminary, or going to a neighboring town to get a master’s in speech therapy, or interviewing to be a residential counselor at a school for the deaf. In the end I did none of those.

I did spend a summer on the mission field where, although I didn’t take that left turn in Albuquerque, I did change planes there.

Instead I ended up moving home to Virginia where I had an interview to work for a local newspaper but didn’t get the job.

I also interviewed at a local television station and, while they weren’t interested in me as a reporter, they suggested I could apply for camera work. I declined. I know I talk about not living with any regrets, but that one is a big ol’ “what if?” that I’ll never have an answer to.

While living in the DC area, I had a side adventure there for a while trying to be a full-time event planner and establish my own business. I’m still doing some of that on a different level and that’s why you should also follow me over at Historic Occasions.

I never made it to seminary, but I did eventually study online and get a Certificate in Christian Education, and I completed the Biblical Studies Program with the Christian Counseling and Training Center.

And for the last six or so years, I’ve been more actively involved in theater. I’m acting, I’m writing scripts, I’m directing, I’m producing. It’s actually longer than that if you count the 20 or so years in our church Music and Fine Arts ministry. Like the writing, that sort of sat on a shelf after college.

But, professionally, I never made the full-time writing thing happen. I went from social work, to political campaigns, to association work, to government.

Maybe it was all of those things together that helped me make the statement “I am a writer.” But maybe it was also the struggle in those post college years until I hit fifty trying to figure out how to make it happen.

That’s another story, and another blog.

So, when it comes to answering the question of how and when I became a writer, I can either say I’ve always known that’s what I was supposed to do, or I could say that it’s a combination of all these things that have made me the writer I am today.

That’s a helluva lot of source material.

I have stacks of novels, completed, or partially begun, none of which are ready for public consumption. I have stacks of articles and stories and other things I’ve written. There’s more to be done with them.

I have yet to find that magical formula to turn them into a full-time income. I’ve accepted the fact that it may not be until I can afford to retire from my day job (and thus live on my pension and not book royalties), that I can really consider myself to be a full-time writer.

I’m okay with that.

Obstacles, and distractions, and rabbit trails aside, I’m still a writer.

I always have been.


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