Tuesday, November 1, 2022

W is for Writer

 In seventh grade, my English teacher, Miss Lee, introduced me to creative writing. In eighth grade, when I had to create a career booklet, I declared my intention to become a writer. 

At that time, I thought I'd want to work for a magazine. Even then, I didn't see myself loving the daily deadlines that came with newspaper work. In addition, as a middle schooler and Teen magazine subscriber, I was much more interested in fashion and human interest than the news (it never occurred to me to consider Time or Newsweek).

Somewhere along the way, my interest in psychology took root and, when I went to college, I abandoned my pursuit of writing in favor of a degree in psychology. It wasn't until I changed districts eight years into my career as a school counselor, moving from a full-time position to a part-time position, that I began to seriously consider writing again. In fact, it was my sister who reminded me that I'd always wanted to write, and that working four days a week instead of five presented me with precisely that opportunity.

And so, the summer before I started my new position in my new school district, I got serious about writing. I submitted work on spec, launching the freelancing portion of my writing career.

For the next nineteen years, I continued submitting my work. I took some correspondence courses through The Institute of Children's Literature and the Long Ridge Writers Group, along with a course on freelancing offered by my local library. I joined Pennwriters and went to conferences and joined a critique group. I began branching out, writing two books for school counselors and two novels, as well as trying my hand at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and Camp NoWriMo (the pared-down July version). I got accepted into Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature's One-on-One Plus on the strength of the first ten pages of my first novel. 

The first novel got nibbles but, in the end, failed to attract an agent or a publisher. The second one got me an agent. I met her at a conference in Lewisburg, one I'd attended as much as an excuse to visit the town where I'd lived for six years during college and grad school as to network with other writers and publishing professionals. Together, we got that book published.

Ten years ago, when I retired ahead of schedule, all of my colleagues assumed I'd write full-time. Indeed, I wanted to do just that, and I set out to ramp up the writing (and the paychecks) but, by then, I knew that writing full-time was unlikely to earn me enough money to pay the bills, let alone tackle the next big thing on my list: paying for college for my daughter. 

After a year of teaching other people about writing (and organizing) and submitting my work anywhere I thought it might find a home, I got offered a job teaching psychology and I took it.

I started out teaching one class but, over time, the job grew to fill my schedule as I took on (and later proposed) other courses. Now, nine years in, the part time job has grown to a nearly full-time pursuit, relegating writing (once again) to a side hustle.

Five (and a half) novels (three published), three non-fiction books and a slew (that's the technical term) of blogs and articles later, a side hustle doesn't feel like a bad deal. While there are definitely weeks when I get frustrated over my lack of available writing time, I'm grateful that I don't have to depend on my writing to pay the bills. This has, in fact, been something my writing accountability partner (a friend and fellow writer) and I have been talking about quite a bit lately. We're on the same page (so to speak) -- the one that says that the joy of writing is better preserved when we write as a matter of choice rather than as a matter of necessity.

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And that first novel? The one that went nowhere? That's my NaNoWriMo project for 2022. I learned long ago that the traditional NaNoWriMo goal of a novel in 30 days isn't a good fit for me but I've also learned that writing alongside other writers is. So, this month, I'll be turning my attention back to some of the first characters I created, and trying out a new platform to see if it's a good fit for them (and for me). 

Sometime between the time I started writing this post this morning and the time I got back to it after class to get it finished and posted, my dad texted me to wish me a Happy National Author's Day. I'd like to say I planned this post accordingly but, the truth is that I'd forgotten that today is, indeed, a day to celebrate and encourage writers. 

Seems like a great day to get that new project underway.

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