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The Evolution of A Writer

From somewhere, the thought enters your mind that you would like to be a writer.  You love reading and the idea of putting words on a page for another person to enjoy seems like it might be the greatest thing you could do.

But you never tell a soul.  After all, who are you to even think that you could write something that other people might want to read?  You’re just a middle-class (on a good day) blue-collar kid.  You don’t know any writers.  You have no idea what being a writer entails.  The notion of being a writer gets stuffed in a drawer.

Then your high school English teacher stops at your desk.  “What do you think about writing for the school newspaper next year?  I think you could do it.”

She thinks you could write.  Somebody has noticed you and offered you an opportunity to work with words.  “Yes,” you say without even needing to think about the offer overnight.

A few weeks later, you come home to find that you are once again moving to another city and another school and the idea of being a writer gets shoved back in that drawer.

As a high school junior, you’re told to select the electives you’d like to take during your senior year.  You look them over before checking every box that has to do with writing, “Creative Writing,” “Short Story Writing,” and “Non-Fiction Writing.”  Three weeks later, you receive a note from the school counselor along with a new form instructing you  to select different classes because the ones you wanted didn’t make.  You pick an  accounting class along with some more practical electives.

For the next few years, most of your writing consists of research papers and book reports.  The summer after your college graduation, the drawer opens again.  You turn off the TV and grab a yellow legal pad.  You start writing a story.  After six pages, you look up at the clock and see that two hours have passed.  It felt like ten minutes.  You promise to pick up where you left off the very next day.

Instead, two years pass.  You sit in an office waiting for the phone to ring or the other employees to arrive to give you an assignment.  An idea comes to mind.  From where you don’t know, but it comes nonetheless.  You find a legal pad in the supply cabinet and start writing.  Day after day.  You type up the story, making changes as you go.  Copies are given to friends and they laugh.  You write more stories.  You send your stories to various publications.  They are returned with rejection notices.

“This time, I will not give up.”

You apply for a job with a newspaper and do not get it.

You graduate from the short story to the novel.  Not just any novel, but serious literary fiction.  After a year, you attempt to gain the interest of agents with your novel.  If they reply, they do so with a form letter rejecting you and your work.

You show up to work one day to discover you are being laid off.  Effective immediately.  As in right now.  “This is my chance.  While I look for work, I will write and write and write.”  You finish this novel and query agents.  This time, this time, you get a positive response.  “I think you have something here, but you still need work.”  Suggestions are given to work with a writing coach or an editor.  You contact this person, send them your manuscript, and await their response.

You’ve never seen so much red ink in your life.  “Was there anything redeemable about what I wrote?”  The task, the changes, seem overwhelming.  You try, but you don’t even know where to begin.

The drawer opens again.

There are starts and stops, but nothing seems to work.  You read books on writing for advice.  You never seem to get more than forty or fifty pages before abandoning that project to the drawer.

You have an idea for a memoir and so you start to work on it.  By chance, you know an author, an actual, published writer.  You email her for help, knowing it’s a one in a million chance.  Months pass before she replies to your email.  She refers you to a friend, a former agent turned editor and writing coach.

She identifies your weaknesses and points out areas for improvement.  Instead of leaving you to flounder, she gives suggestions and direction.  Now you can take it.  Why is this time different than before?  Who knows?  But this is the one thing you love to do and more than anything you want to get better at this craft.

Your book is published.  People come up to you and tell you how much they enjoyed your book.  People, strangers, email you about your book.  Others tell you never to quit writing.

Others tell you never to quit writing.

As intoxicating as that feels, as encouraging as it can be, the joy comes in the writing.  The day after finishing your first book, you start on the next one.  The drawer has been locked and the key dropped down a well.  You will write and write and write.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Bill Hallman
    July 12, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    keep writing

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