Take it away, Julie.
Thanks 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 .
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. Kanab, Utah
Before too long, I had my first assignment, and wrote about people in
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
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!