How I became a writer

I know what you’re thinking: Huh? Shouldn’t it be “Why I became…” and not “How”? And why does a person have to write about deciding to become a writer? Isn’t the fact that I wrote this blog proof that I’m a writer? Ah, if only it were this easy.

I have always written for fun, my first sci fi short was in first grade, “Space City.” When given an assignment to write 2-3 paragraphs and use 5 spelling words, I wrote a fifteen page mystery. When nobody would play Dungeons and Dragons with me, I read and wrote my own modules. I had dozens of made-up stories rattling around inside my head but never seriously wrote them down. Who’d want to read my silly little fantasies? I only wrote when the story voices became too loud and threatened my sanity. Or when I felt my head was too full and it needed a bit of emptying. Yet as soon as a story was out, more rushed in to fill the void.

But I never considered myself a writer.

I took a creative writing class in college. The teacher was horrible and if you didn’t write EXACTLY like she wanted, you failed. No room for creativity, just following her rules for literary short stories. No sci-fi, no fantasy, not even a just-for-fun comedy unless it was a literary satire.

So I still didn’t consider myself a writer.

I got married, had kids and still would put the occasional idea down on paper. Using actual legal pads, mind you, adding to old stories or making new ones. Outlining entire novels or merely a two page memoir. Whenever I wasn’t fulfilling mom or wifely duties, I could be seen pen in hand scribbling furiously, sometimes so fast I later couldn’t read what I wrote. When the kids were at soccer or dance practice, instead of chatting with other moms, I had my legal pad. Kids in bed, legal pad. Husband out of town and nothing on TV, legal pad.

And yet, I didn’t consider myself a writer

I started talking about my writing for the first time 10 years ago. I mentioned it to my husband who promptly said “That’s nice,” and turned up the sound on the tv. “Aw, he’s just a guy,” I excused. I told my kids who were excited but quickly moved on to the next thing as kids do. I spoke about it to my family. Most looked at me like I was suddenly cross-eyed and the rest were supportive but non-committal.  Except my mother. She had always wanted to write and was working on a novel of her own so she became my first true supporter. My best friend was the first to actually read something of mine and she became my second true supporter. And that was it with the support. But I wrote anyway like I always had. About a year later, my sister-in-law mentioned that she was going to a writer’s conference. A writer’s conference? What a curious notion! So I bullied my way into going with her and it was a truly magical experience. I came away for the first time determined not merely to write but try to publish something, anything.

I STILL didn’t think I was a writer.

But let’s take a moment to define what being a writer is. Or can we? I have heard everything from “You have written, therefore you are a writer” to “You are a real writer when you can quit your day job and support yourself with only your writing.” There are so many other definitions that the answer really lies within each person. For myself, the answer lies somewhere between these two extremes. Until recently I considered a writer to be one who is “traditionally” published, or, in other words, paid for their writing. Now I feel it is a bit different.

When my attempt at publishing came to a screeching halt, (as noted in the post Long Road), I began making excuses for not writing. Be there for kids, have to make money, husband doesn’t want me to be a writer, no time, too involved with other things. The universe had to practically hit me over the head to make me see what I was missing.

First -It has only been these last few weeks that I noticed that ALL my attempts at making money were designed to do two things: 1 – have time to be a mom and 2 – have time to write. A lightning bolt hit me. Only being a good mom was more important to me than writing.

Second – After this revelation, I realized I have been half-assing everything: earning money…half-ass; being a mom…half-ass; writing…half-ass; dealing with marriage..half-ass, etc. In trying to do everything, I accomplished nothing.

Third – When I decided to quit my job and “whole-ass” being a mom and writing, a HUGE weight was lifted from me and I was happy. But I still didn’t realize how important this was until I admitted it to a friend and worried that if I didn’t earn enough money at writing, my husband wouldn’t support me. She replied with “Who cares if you ever get published? The fact that you are happy should be enough for him.” She was absolutely right but I took it a step further.  Even if I never publish traditionally, creating my stories makes me happy.

Fourth – When I told a fellow teacher that I was going to a writer’s conference for the weekend, she responded, “I can’t think  of anything worse than being forced to write for a whole weekend.” My response was that I couldn’t imagine anything more fun!

Fifth, and more – SOOOOO many other things too many to name here helped open my eyes and change how I feel about myself and writing.

So, I am now writing what I want, being true to myself and my ideas. I would like to be published so others can enjoy my stories but if it never happens, so be it. I am writing because it is important to me and vital to my well-being. It is a part of me, something I need to do and enjoy doing. I will no longer ignore it or excuse it away as trivial or “only when I have the time”. I WILL WRITE DAMMIT!

And now, NOW, I finally feel like I am a writer.