Friday, January 27, 2012

Julie Flanders: My Beginning as a Writer

Hi all! Today I welcome Julie to MFB. Julie is a writer of one of the earliest blogs I've followed. From the first time I went there, I loved her blog (and her) for her passion both for writing and for animals.

Take it away, Julie.  

My PhotoThanks so much, Misha, for hosting me today. I was attracted to the theme of beginnings as I am a new writer myself, and I hope that sharing my own “beginning” may be an inspiration to others who find themselves in similar situations.

My writing beginning came about at an age when many people are getting serious about planning for retirement. I'd never worried much about age before, but that changed when I turned 40. At a time when society says we are supposed to be happily settled and basking in the rewards of middle-age, I found myself feeling lost and unfulfilled, and wondering what on earth I could do to change what looked like a dull and uninspiring future.

 I felt like I'd hit a low point, and I made the decision that I was going to make changes. I had no idea what those changes were going to be but, somehow, just making the decision felt like a step in the right direction.

I started reading all kinds of self-help books, but I quickly realized that I was simply reading as a means of putting off actually doing something. The reading was easy. The doing was the scary part.

Finally, I sat down and thought about what it was that I enjoyed doing. The answer came easily. From the time I was in school, the one thing I had always felt confident about, and had brought me pleasure, was writing. Whether writing papers for classes, writing letters, or writing academic articles as a librarian, I enjoyed all of it. In addition, since childhood I had loved constructing stories in my head about characters I saw on tv or read about in books. I never wrote them down; as I thought writing stories was something creative people did. And I wasn't creative.

If there was one skill I had mastered in life, it was saying “I can't,” or “I'm not.” Now that I had reached this low point, I thought I had nothing to lose by trying “I can” and “I am” on for size. If nothing else, I resolved to say “I'll try.”

My opportunity to put my words into action came about in a completely unexpected way. I discovered a show called Dog Town, which was about dogs at Best Friends, an animal sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. I fell in love with the place, and looked up their website. To my surprise, I found a listing for volunteer writers for their site. On a whim, I submitted an application.

Before too long, I had my first assignment, and wrote about people in Florida who had come to the aid of starving and neglected cats. I was so nervous when I submitted my article that I was afraid to open the response from the editor. But I had no reason to be afraid, as the feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive.

I felt buoyed in a way I never had while doing my “real” work. I wrote more articles, and continued to get wonderful feedback from both editors and readers alike. In addition, I was thrilled to be contributing to a cause I cared about, and helping both people I admired and animals I loved.

Suddenly, being a writer didn't seem like something I couldn't do any more. I went from “I'll try” to “What if?” What if I branched out and wrote for other outlets? What if I could actually get paid for doing this?

“What if?” became “I will,” and that was my beginning. Now nearly two years later, I feel like I've finally found the passion and sense of fulfillment I'd been missing for so long. And even though I still have a long way to go to be able to support myself with writing, the small amount of money I have made has been worth its weight in gold. What's more, the personal rewards have enriched my life in a way no amount of money ever could.

So my advice to would-be writers is simple. Begin. No matter your age or experience, there’s never a wrong time to get started. It may seem frightening, but take that first step. Volunteer, write a blog, or sit down and start that novel you’ve always wanted to write.

The step you take is up to you. The important thing is to begin.

Thanks so much for this inspiring post, Julie. What about you ladies and gents? When did you start writing?

Also, I need a hero/heroine to please step up to the plate. On 10 February, there is no one to do a GPF post. *gasp* It's a terrible thing, because then everyone will be subjected to my ramblings on a Friday! Surely no one want that!

So please please please (with awesomesauce on top) contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com and let me know that you'll do a post for me.

Have a great weekend!


  1. I also love Julies blog and thought this was a great post. I only started writing with a more determined attitude a little over a year ago and it had taken me several false starts to get to that space. I had written several versions of a first chapter, then left it to fester in the ether. If you want to do it, then yes, you really should sit down and take that first step, it's funny how you then start to dream of when you next have opportunity to sit down and work.

  2. This is a wonderful story. How great is it that you could write about something you love too?

    I got started with a letter to the editor of a country living magazine. He was so impressed he called me long distance (this was before cellphones). We talked for over an hour and he convinced me to write an article for the magazine. I got so much reader mail, he invited me back. That's when it struck me--I could do this.

  3. Thank you so much for your kind words and for hosting me today, Misha!

    @Rebecca, thank you, and I totally love your blog as well.

    @Maria, thanks! Oh, what a great story that is about your letter to the editor! I love to hear about how writers got started. Thanks so much!

    @Richard, thank you!

  4. Well said, Julie. So glad you decided to begin!!

  5. Awesome interview. I tried to follow your blog, Julie, but there was a glich. I'll try later.

  6. Amen, Julie! Just get it started. No, I'm not a Black Eyed Pea...

    Julie is good people. How do I know? She loves dogs, that's how. My affections are easy to win, what can I say?

  7. That's right - just do it and see what happens. You might be surprised.

  8. @LG, thank you! I'm so glad as well, best decision I've ever made.

    @Em, oh, thank you! I know Blogger seems to be acting up again, I had trouble getting on today. Very frustrating! But thanks so much, I am looking forward to checking out your blog.

    @EJ, LOL, you've got me singing the Black Eyed Peas now. Aww, you're good people too, thank you!

    @Alex, exactly, I agree 100%. Thanks!

  9. Hi Julie and Misha. Its nice to read about when Julie started writing. I started writing in college.

  10. Loved your guest! I started writing young, but I didn't really start taking myself and my writing seriously until four years ago. It took many tries before I had a short story accepted, and then a year later I was given the opportunity to write a short devotional book for my church. I think that when our life and our writing connects we find success.

  11. Great guest post. I guess the saying "it's never to late" definitely applies.

  12. @Rachna, thank you! It's great to meet you.

    @Tyrean, thanks! That's a great point about the connection. Congrats on your success!

    @Michael, thanks! I think so, definitely. :)

  13. Aww! Wonderful post, Julie. It's so true you just have to begin. :)

  14. I liked this post very much, Misha. I've been in the "just do it" category for quite some time. So I definitely agree with Julie.

  15. I felt the same as you, Julie. At about the same age. Great article. :)

  16. I really got a thrill reading this post. It is so exciting to find something you love when you are older and have tried different things. I love blogging and meeting bloggers. I love reading what people write. All this has added spice to my rather hum-drum life. I`m glad you found your passion!

  17. Good for you for saying "I can." You're doing great!

    Hi, Misha :)

  18. Aloha Misha,

    Found your Blog via Julie and just wanted to say hi. When it comes to wrioting, you sound like a kindred spirit and I look forward to reading more of your posts. I'm a new follower:)

  19. You are right about beginnings. It just takes that first step to to from "I Can't" to "Doing it". What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing this.

  20. @Cherie, thank you!

    @Susan, I'm glad you liked it, thank you.

    @Mary, I thought you could relate to this, thanks so much.

    @Belle, thanks! Oh, I know what you mean about the blogging, I love it too. It's great to meet so many people from all over the place. Thank you!

    @Carol, thank you!

    @Mark, I'm so glad to meet you, thanks.

    @Angela, thank you! It took me a long time to get to "doing it" but I'm glad I finally did. Thanks!

  21. Such a great beginnings story! So inspirational, too. I loved it!

  22. I wrote stories from the time I was old enough to hold a pen/pencil. I loved to see the lovely flow of the ink onto the page and know that I was sharing a "secret" journey. I used to get caught passing notes in school and you guessed it, they were always about some dream or story I was working on. When it came time for me to plan a career, I was told by an exasperated tester that they don't like "types" like me as we were too hard to fit in the guidelines of things. Lol. I fought my imagination for more years than I care to admit in order to "conform." One day, after years of searching, I started to write a story on the computer and kept on with more for going on four years now. I've never experienced such a blessing or excitement or a full range of emotions as when I'm working on a project. It's truly a fulfilling job. I will never let my kids get caught in the "you can't do that" trap that I did.

  23. @Peggy, thank you! I'm so glad you liked it.

    @traci, oh, I think it's so unfortunate when people try to discourage others from pursuing their dreams for more "practical" careers, I have heard other stories like yours and I just think it's such a shame. How awesome that you started writing again, and got out of that trap. Thanks for sharing!

  24. This is an inspiring post and it is hitting home because I am going to turn forty in August. I have loved writing since I was nine and never stopped doing it. However, I never took it seriously until my late when something life-transforming happened. (It was a reminder that I will not live forever). Thanks, again, for your beautiful post.

  25. I like the idea that beginnings can happen at any age. I've been writing since I was a kid but hope I'm learning more and more as the years pass.

  26. So many readers echoing what I did, starting out late but starting out as Julie pointed out in this comforting post...
    I never felt I was creative enough to take writing full time, the fear of being labelled mediocre...but these two years of active writing after a decade has been like a balm for the soul.

  27. Great story! I can certainly relate to this.

    Wrote By Rote

  28. A brilliant story of self believe and just 'doing' it. Sometimes we feel we have to do only what's expected but it's wonderful to break out and really go for it. Congratulations, Julie on a really inspirational story.

  29. @Julia, oh, thank you for your comments! I wish you all the best with your writing!

    @Deniz, I think that is one of the great things about writing, it seems there is always more to learn about ourselves and the process itself. Thanks!

    @Rek, I can so relate to what you are saying, thank you for your comments. So glad you found that balm!

    @Lee, thank you!

    @Valentina, thank you! You're so right, it can be hard to break out but it's definitely worth it to try. Thanks!

    @Melissa, thanks!

  30. I enjoyed your post Julie, it was very inspiring. Sometimes you just have to go ahead and do it.
    Misha's blog is always interesting.

  31. @Anthony, thank you, I'm so glad you liked it. And I totally agree, Misha has a great blog. Thanks again!

  32. Ah, it was this one I already followed.

  33. Misha,
    I've got an award for you on my book blog. Stop by and pick it up.

  34. wow thats great article... i loved reading it


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