I've always wanted to be a writer. When I was little, I wanted to be a doctor. (And I was already writing stories.) By the time I was a teenager, I wanted to be a doctor-writer. I read my mom's copy of Prince of Tides and imagined my days as both a psychiatrist and an author. I went away to college (full pre-med track but also an English Lit major) and saved all my science textbooks and notes for future use in fiction.
Fortunately, I realized that "it sounds fun and also might make for good stories" wasn't good enough reason to go to medical school. (If it were free, I'd totally still go. Medical school still sounds fun to me! But I still don't want to actually work as a doctor.)
I want to work as a writer. So, here's how I took my writing from hobby status to career status.
Hobby status. I wrote novels (4+ of them), short stories, and essays. I blogged daily. I threw myself into NaNoWriMo. I drafted in a cafe while my daughter was at preschool. I participated in a critique group. I read a lot. I followed industry blogs and websites. I took classes on campus and online. I joined a writing group and attended a convention. Pretty serious hobby, right?
Career status. I got more serious about all of the above. I wrote three more novels, each time identifying my weakest tendencies and attacking them. I don't like hurting my precious characters? Fine. Next novel has DEAD CHILDREN in the backstory. My close-third-person perspective isn't close enough? Fine. Next novel is first person, present tense. My pacing is soggy? Fine. I'll outline a novel I love and map my own outline/character/story to the pacing of the published novel I like. I began writing year 'round, not just when it fit into my schedule. I threw myself into a weekly critique group then joined a monthly critique group on top of that. I submitted work to contests and first page reads for feedback. I had headshots taken and a website developed. I became more thoughtful and intentional in my social media presence. I joined a second writing organization (and a goaltenders group and a writing accountability group). I started querying my critiqued manuscripts to agents.
But the biggest switch was mental. I stopped thinking of writing as a "some day" activity. I stopped putting everything else in my life first. I stopped apologizing for the time and money I spend on writing. I started acting like writing was my job. "I won't be here when you get home from school, because I'll be with my writing group. Let yourself in and text me--I'll be home soon." "No, I'm sorry, I can't volunteer in the school library on Tuesday afternoons--I'm in critique group then." I began thinking of myself as a writer.
And you know what? I am a writer. I have many career goals I have yet to achieve, but I'm doing the work I can do to achieve them. My writing is far better than it was ten years ago, but hopefully nowhere near as good as it will be ten year from now.
In the meantime, as they say, "Writers write."
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