The Writing Life: Taking the Dream to Fruition
I have been a writer for most of my life. “ A writer is someone who writes” after all, and I have been writing since age eight. However my dream for a long time has been to make writing my full-time job, not just an amusing hobby. I think I have achieved my goal, but it looks rather different from what I imagined. And while I am a full-time writer, I am not yet a published author. Living the writing life is not just about creating the next bestseller. It is about loving all the aspects of the work, no matter the outcome, because it allows you to tell a story that is yours alone.
Here’s what my writing life looks like at the moment.
I am sitting in my studio composing this post with my laptop on my knees because there’s no room for it on my desk, the surface of which is covered with the detritus of a full weekend of writing. There are at least seven spiral notebooks in a sort of pile on the desk along with about ten others at my feet. They represent all of my rough drafts and half stories scribbled in writing sessions covering a couple of years.
Interspersed with the notebooks are crumpled, scribbled sticky notes, ragged pages torn from notepads, collapsed stacks of books and magazines and a number of abandoned cups of tea. The trashcan has overflowed onto the floor and the bookshelf under my desk looks ravaged.
Since retiring from my first career as a teacher almost three years ago I have undertaken developing my “second act” as a writer. Here’s what that entailed over the last three days:
~Goal: Publish stories and articles to establish my credentials as a writer.
Publishing credits are an important piece of the puzzle as I work toward getting a book ready for publication. If I want to attract the notice of an agent or a publisher, I need to have published work I can point to.
I spent many hours this weekend rewriting, tweaking and polishing three personal essays for submission to two different online literary publications. The deadline for submission was today, so that took precedence over everything else. The final drafts went out yesterday afternoon accompanied by my high hopes. The stories were ones I had written over the last year in various writing groups I belong to. As soon as I read the submission guidelines I knew I had pieces that would fit. The problem was they were located in my vast collection of notebooks- somewhere. I pulled them all out and began to flip through until I found the pieces I wanted.
Once I found a story, I began to work on it, and work on it and work on it. Hours later a story of less than 1,000 words was ready to go. I repeated this same pattern two more times, fueled by gallons Earl Grey tea, Kind bars, and peanut butter on rice cakes. I went through countless drafts of each story before pronouncing it ready to send. Then there was the learning curve in getting my work formatted to the specifications for each publication. That was several more hours filled with frustration and grumbling. Still, it was valuable learning time since I have new skills I can use in the future.
Goal: Teach writing classes in order to help other writers pursue their dreams and to be part of a group of like-minded people.
Today I spent the entire day planning for my Fiction writing class that I teach each Tuesday. Tomorrow’s lesson is on Setting and Description. I spent several hours on the internet scouring posts for ideas and making notes on sticky pads and scraps of paper. Plus I consulted my vast writer’s library, pulling books from my shelves and making more notes. I wanted to be sure I have a complete and thorough lesson for my students. They are all talented writers with goals of their own. Teaching writing classes to adults has been a goal of mine for many years. It is one of the highlights of my week. It offers me an opportunity to be around my “tribe”, those folks who love stories so much they want to create their own.
Next I completed my homework assignment for tomorrow’s writing class. I assign a writing prompt for homework each week . For the first activity in class we all share our writing based on the prompt. I needed to have my writing done for that as well in order to model what I am teaching.
Goal: Create a blog about writing to encourage others to write.
Having to write for my blog also helps me create new content on a regular basis as well as meeting my goal to produce at least 500 words a day. Blogging is helping me hone my writing skills as well as putting me in touch with others who love stories.
Goal: Learn more about blogging, publishing and targeting my audience.
Right now I am working through 3 online classes that are helping me develop skills as a blogger, writer and entrepreneur. In order to be successful as a writer in the 21st century I need to learn as much as I can about creating and growing my website, marketing, electronic publishing and so on. I spend time each week listening to podcasts and modules to help me acquire those skills that do not come so naturally to me. This has been a steep learning curve for me, but I am gradually gaining valuable skills and confidence.
Goal: Publish my novel. And then another. Repeat.
This of course is my ultimate goal. Each week I am spending time rewriting and editing my book. I am also working on the first draft of another book as well as several other story ideas. I have no shortage of projects I wish to pursue. I just need more hours in my day.
For now, I am going to tidy my desk and call it a day.