1. Get Ideas.
2. Write Them Down.
Except it's not like that. Let me tell you why...
First of all- in case you're thinking maybe I don't love doing what I do?
Or that I only got here from pushing myself out of guts and determination?
Or that I was motivated by the dollar signs and nothing else?
I love doing this and I could talk more about why but...I believe that what I do backs me up more than what I say (ironic, huh?)
That and... despite my early days, I feel like writing comes naturally for me. I'll explain:
This may come as a surprise, but I didn't always dream of writing for a living...
I wouldn't even say I had a keen enthusiasm for writing in my early school years. I did write a project on mushrooms when I was in kindergarten, but the writing was all random letters formed into sentences. My teacher told my parents it didn't matter at that point, that what was most important was that it 'made sense' to me...
I didn't begin learning to read until I was in 1st grade, and it was tedious early on, trying to make words out of those static letters on a page. Through Years 2 and 3, I'd write journal entries for class exercises, but I still found the actual writing part of it somewhat frustrating- I enjoyed the illustration part more and I was happy to devote plenty of time to drawing the pictures and then colouring them in with those thick, standard-issue pencils every public school had back then.
It wasn't until I was in 4th grade that I began to enjoy writing. This was because I'd volunteer to stand up the front of class and read my creative writing assignments aloud. I was in a Year 4/5 composite class, so when I'd stand up to read and my latest offering made the 5th graders laugh, I felt pretty cool for those 10 minutes or so. My classmates would tell me to get up and share my latest story when it was creative writing time, and the kudos I'd get inspired me to write crazier, more elaborate tales- to send up people in our class and be as silly as I could get away with.
The thing was- I didn't know why people liked hearing me share what I'd written. To me, it was just something that came unexpectedly. Sure, I'd always been hassled by my classmates to draw stuff for them. People had complimented me on my drawing skills for as long as I could remember, but this?
This was new...
I finished Primary school, moved up to Highschool and it was a brand new environment. I was now a relative unknown, feeling like I had everything to prove. So writing was my way of connecting with my new classmates and giving them an insight into the mind of this shy, awkward 12 year old. I'd recently been awakened to this new, unnerving sense of self-awareness. I felt like I was constantly being watched, sized up, judged. It didn't occur to me that virtually everyone else in my grade was feeling this same kind of insecurity as well...
I felt one step ahead, like I knew exactly what I was doing...
I'd read and my classmates hung on my every word. People would laugh. The girls would laugh (right when making the girls laugh had suddenly become strangely important to me). I wished I could be the person I was when I stood up to read, all the time. In Year 7, we also had to write our autobiographies as an assignment. I took a whole day off to write mine- and ended up getting marked 50 out of 50 for it. I got up and, in front of my classmates, shared stories of my life. They all laughed (and in the right places). If only I knew how to have this impact on people all the time! I thought...
Nearly 20 years have passed since those bittersweet years of adolescence, and if I'm not typing out a proposal or carrying out a project for a client, then I'm writing a new post just like this one, corresponding with clients and leads and colleagues, or even writing another entry in the journal I've kept these past 5 years. It's rare there's a day where I'm not writing. What I like is that it isn't like speaking out loud to somebody, where being understood and keeping communication going often requires thinking on the spot. When I write, I can take as long as I like. You'd have no idea if it took me 2 seconds or 2 hours between finishing that last sentence and starting this one because to you, it was a seamless transition.
A lot of people imagine that being a paid writer must be a dream job. In some ways? I agree...
All I really need to work is a writing utensil of some sort. Mostly it's my laptop, but even failing that I could cover a fair bit of work with just a pen and notepad. Give me my laptop and internet connection and I can work virtually anywhere. I have practically no overheads- no shopfront, no stock to insure or maintain- with the added bonus of being a business owner. I set my own schedule and have last say in whatever work I take on. A number of times I've been rugged up indoors, going about my day and I look outside at the bleak sky and the rain and feel blessed. This job is great at offering freedom.
But on saying that?
With that freedom comes responsibility. Managing most businesses requires discipline of thought, discipline of action and an appreciation of time-management and organisational skills. Doing this is no different. Soon enough you learn that you can't do everything you want to, because time is precious. Although I am the captain of this ship, it means that I can rarely sit on deck and enjoy the view. I'm constantly thinking of what else I have to take care of because unless I do it, it's not going anywhere. Much of what I do is all on me, and me alone. That may well change in years to come, but for the moment it's just me with this heavy pack on my back.
There's also the amount of time I spend alone. Hours of my day are spent in solitude, solving my own problems and formulating my own ideas. While working in a team can bring out the ugly side of office politics, it also offers camaraderie and the chance of relationships developing. For me, like anything else, there are the wins and moments of glory. But much of the journey is encountered by me alone. Hours of my day are spent solving problems and formulating ideas, by myself. Most of what goes on behind the scenes is barely noticed by anybody else. There are plenty of things where, if I don't do them, nobody cracks the whip on my back. But at the same time, I have nobody else to rely on.
That's the thing with being a writer- the freedom of being un-shackled from the traditional 'grind' of weekly living and forging your own path, comes at the expense of feeling 'cut off' from the world at times, with so many problems and outcomes that exist largely in your own mind, while the outside world goes on blissfully unaware.
There's also the trick of trying to maintain balance. It's not like the classic 'Angel/ Devil' scenario, but there's one side of me that keeps telling me that if I want to really strike success with a sledgehammer, then I should do more. Work longer, push harder, sacrifice more. But then there's another side of me, reminding me that no amount of money or prestige is worth throwing away good people, my health, my happiness and years lost for good because I was so focused on the next big thing. What's the point in abundance if you don't enjoy your blessing and don't have people you really want to share it with?
But still, as logical as the latter approach might seem, you'd be surprised how often the former voice comes in, telling me that I'd be way ahead of where I am if I worked away for longer hours at a time and devoted more of my life to work. We absolutely need to have good stock in more than just a financial sense- relationship stock, quality of life stock, personal contentment stock are all crucial- otherwise what do we really have to show for ourselves? Yet even then, fighting off that voice telling me I'm not a serious player until I've forgotten what relaxation or a day off feels like, can be more difficult than you might think.
But you know what the strange thing is?
While talking about my life as a professional writer and its' challenges feels unique to me, I'm sure that for many of you, reading about it feels unexpectedly familiar. I bet there are things you have to deal with that you feel most people won't understand. As much as you want to, how do you reach out and connect with these people, get them to understand what it's like to be you?
Because the better you get at this, the better you get at writing.
And if you've always wanted to be a writer, that's where it all starts...