You know, I’ve been writing for years. I started keeping a journal (at least a formal one, with a red cover and a tiny golden key) at the age of seven. I still have that original diary (although I plan to scan it in and burn it soon). Going paperless, don’tcha know…
For years I’ve written about anything and everything. I’ve taken different sides of the same story and stretched my skills to see if I can effectively argue both sides, regardless of which one I consider the “right” side. I’ve struggled with my calling, with my passion. I’ve endured the judgment of others. You know, when you are young, people may admire the fact that you write… it’s somehow “cute” or charming. Cute, that is, up until the point you decide to make it a career… then you need a “backup plan” — for when you fail.
I don’t have a problem with multiple approaches to reaching your goals… but, in my humble opinion, having a “backup plan” means that you EXPECT to fail. You don’t intend to live your dream…
Reflecting today, I remember the feeling of simultaneous exhilaration and twinges that felt like “giving up” when I finally decided to change my college major from something “respectable” to “English.” I remember the fleeting sense of pride that I was finally taking a stand… and being true to myself. I felt that despite the well-known fact that no one could make a living with an English degree.
I knew this was a fact because I’d been told this by people I respected — people I trusted — people who only wanted what was “best” for me.
“Write if you want to write, Angela, but get a degree you can DO something with… you have the capacity for hard science and math, you have a background in chemistry and calculus for God’s sake! So get your degree first, then you can ‘write’ as a hobby. Don’t get an English degree. At the very least, get a business degree — you need to be able to feed yourself.”
I remember the constant and common question “What’s your major?” And I remember what they said to me when I responded…”Oh, English, So, you’re going to teach?” I got so upset every time I heard that. I NEVER EVER wanted to teach. I don’t have the patience for it. I can teach my own, but to teach other people’s brats? No thanks, I’ll pass. And I knew this as a teenager and an “early 20s” gal.
Since that time, I find that I enjoy “teaching” adults. In the “big girl” world… it’s called consulting — but I didn’t see that as a junior in college. Some things take awhile.
I excelled in English. I loved it, even if I still had to make excuses for my adoration. It wasn’t enough to be a student that was excelling in what I loved. I had to add that I was in the honors program. I had to add that I had an extremely high GPA. I had to do an undergraduate thesis, because being a simple English major wasn’t enough. I had to prove that MY English degree, MY vocation, was not a cop-out.
When I got my first ‘REAL’ job as a writer, I was thrilled. Finally SOMEBODY was going to PAY me to write. I was validated. I was a real WRITER. Someone thought my words were important enough, smooth enough, valuable enough that they were willing to PAY me for them. I was almost in shock. I was elated. I was now a REPORTER! I was a journalist. I was legit!
I was told by my then-husband, that writing was something anyone could do. It was nothing special. It wasn’t a real job. Besides, he told me on one particularly memorable occasion, I wasn’t really a writer, I was merely a glorified ambulance chaser.
It shouldn’t have mattered, but it did.
A part of that nay-saying rang true to me. I adopted part of it as real. I’ve battled with the part that I chose to adopt — with that view of a writer as less than professional, less than important — for years. I shifted the importance from a “public” sense of importance to a “private” sense. I knew it mattered to me, that for me it was essential. I knew that it was historically important. I knew it civilized us as a society… but I wasn’t sure about the importance in the modern world.
As a result, the personal doubts led to a depreciated view of my value, my worth, as a writer. It even diminished the value of writing as a career for many years. Without being able to pinpoint what it was exactly, it still managed to hold me back — for over half of my life.
I know that I elected to adopt those concepts. I adopted them with my own free will and I’m still not sure why. I’m pretty stubborn and dang independent. I don’t typically (or blindly) adopt the views of others.
But today, once I finally recognized it and put all these pieces together…I let it go. Finally!
Now, I’ve recognized why it took a paycheck to validate my skill. It meant that I COULD feed myself with my writing, with my English degree. It meant I was right and the nay-sayers were wrong. THAT is why it mattered so much to me. And I better understand why I had to make some serious waves as a writer on and offline before I could actually see the word “writer” as a title that was legitimately mine to claim.
Writers, like Adam in the Garden of Eden, are namers. We define, delineate and organize our own “tags” for every item before it becomes real. If we can’t describe it, it’s not “real.” Without a name, it is “other” and loses importance. So, writers label and grasp at everything.
It’s what we do.
Even with the success I’ve enjoyed, even with all the blessings, there was still a part of me that didn’t feel completely solid with my career. I had to add other things to it. I had
to be a marketing specialist too. I had to know technology. I had to have that “business” portion and that “hard science” portion of my career woven into the writing part.
It’s odd that I look at that now. It’s strange to recognize this, after all these years. But today, I see it. It’s clear.
Honestly, I’m thankful I didn’t see it too much sooner. If I had, I’d probably never have worked so hard and I would not have learned so much. My writing wouldn’t have the
same basis in business and technology that it currently enjoys. I may never have known how much I really do enjoy technology and business and public communication techniques. I may have stayed quiet about my writing and kept it secret if I didn’t find these “acceptable” ways to prop it up.
The “dream” that I had of publishing a book is no longer nagging at me — no longer flailing me as the new year looms. Until now, it was always there to say “you haven’t accomplished me yet, thus you aren’t validated REALLY as a writer.”
Last January, I made a list of my resolutions for the New Year. Among those was “permission” to not work toward traditional publication. I made a promise to myself I’d not work toward that, and I’d not feel guilty for NOT accomplishing that — at least for this one year. I gave myself a vacation from guilt — at least about this one thing — it was my present to myself and I needed it.
Then, my parents and my sister sent me to the Women’s Writer’s Conference as a birthday present. It was a mixed blessing. It made me face the WRITER in me — in the traditional
Before attending, I struggled internally, wondering why I wasn’t writing in the more traditional sense. I wondered if selling my work for a regular paycheck was somehow wrong. If it were something that a writer was not supposed to do. After all, if you aren’t a druggie or an alcoholic, you must at least be suffering to be a REAL artist, right? I wondered if writing the way I do, if doing the work I do, was “selling out” my craft.
The short answer… I finally have it now… is NO.
I’m not selling out. Selling out is when you go against what you believe because you are weak or hungry or scared or terribly insecure. I’m none of those things. I help the people I want to help. I dedicate my time to communicating with people, sharing information and helping others to communicate with their own target audiences.
Attending the writers’ conference, however, put me in the company of some really great writers and creative minds. The air was almost electric with inspiration and drive. It made me stretch. It made me realize that I WAS at home in that environment. I discovered that I DID enjoy working, creating and exploring the craft alongside these talented women.
And, most importantly, I learned that my soul NEEDED that particular brand of nurture by the artistic community to which I belonged. It helped me to hone my own definition of “writer” and release some personal misconceptions. I recognized many less “traditional” but equally valuable aspects of being a writer in the company I was keeping — a group filled with real writers.
I help people be mindful of the message they send. I help them align their personal beliefs and standards with their business goals and communicate those effectively to their customers and the general public. I promote effective communication.
And that, is what a writer does — a writer promotes and opens the lines of communication, helps people think about things in new ways, helps to name and classify and clarify. I would write and share information and communicate and help people even if it were not my career choice. I always have. I always will. And I’ve decided to quit feeling even a little guilty for getting paid to do what I love — there is residue of that guilt on me and it’s time to scrub it clean.
The fact that my job is also my calling is proof that I’m on the right track. Sure, I’ll always be tweaking it, re-evaluating it and making sure it’s still in step with my goals and personal values — but I’m on the right path — the ONLY path for me.
And, after all these years I can finally say… If I ever publish in the “traditional” sense, fine. If not, *shrug* so be it. I am a writer because I write. I am a writer because I don’t know
how NOT to write. I fell into my success by trying to find marketable ways to do what I love for a living… and by learning to be brave.
Every time I’ve taken a crazy-brave dive off a cliff in my life — a cliff from which I was driven to plunge — the net really has appeared. And next year, I’ll return to the Women’s Writer’s Conference. I’ll commune with that artistic side of this calling. And, I’ll go with a higher level of comfort that I am a “real” writer.
My primary mode of writing… online… is just another step in the evolution of communication and the role of the writer in society. It’s not less important because it’s digital, and it’s not more important. It’s just different. It’s easier for readers in this format — easier to distribute, quicker to find and more plentiful in volume because it’s digital, but it’s not less than or better than a printed format from the writer’s perspective.
I’ll continue to blog about things that I find important. I’ll write and distribute articles and stories. I’ll compose relevant information, tips and tricks — and I’ll continue to write whatever I can to help make life easier for the people around me. I want to support the small business community and I enjoy the real estate industry. As long as these remain true, I’ll keep working as I do now — and I’ll continue to be happy and confident that the work I do matters and makes life easier for others.
I’ll also make a concerted effort to be more aware of my accomplishments and continuously thankful for the journey so far. I’m thankful that my perspective got a pretty serious shake today — a long overdue one. I’m also thankful that it didn’t come earlier, even though it may have settled my life a bit sooner.
Mine is a good journey, filled with fantastic individuals, challenging work and personal joy… and I’m blessed.