“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Richard Bach
This is one of my favorite quotes because it is so true of the thing I have come to love to do. Thousands of people set out every year to write the novel they’ve always had in their head, but sadly most of them never even finish a first draft. Writing is not for the faint of heart, it takes a different kind of self motivation and a different kind of confidence.
Unlike most people who love to write, I didn’t discover this about myself until I was in my thirties. I decided around my thirtieth birthday that I was going to go college and get my degree. Since I had been in retail management for 12 years already, naturally I chose a path towards a business degree. Then something strange happened. Somewhere along the way, I think it was my third semester of my general classes, I had my three scheduled classes dropped because the government took too long getting the school my federal forms for student aid back. Annoying I know. However, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
During my run through the traditional basic classes like English, History, and Intro to Business, I was getting really good feedback from professors about my writing. I was kind of surprised because I wasn’t really giving it my best effort. Truth be told I have always hated writing essays! I even emailed a business professor and criticized his course because the focus seemed to be more on how well you wrote you essay and properly cited your sources than the actual content of the paper. I explained that in all my years in the business world, I could tell him unequivocally that nobody writes essays! I have had Vice Presidents of Fortune 500 companies that could barely put together a coherent email. So these essays were whipped out while I was at work. Generally I would knock out a three or four page essay in about 30-45 minutes.
So I was a little more than surprised about consistent feedback of how well I expressed myself. So back to when those classes got dropped. I took it as a sign and changed my focus. I figured I had to find out how well I could write if I was writing about something I liked. Fortunately Rio Salado College is one of the only community colleges in the country with a creative writing program. I jumped in with both feet and took every class they offered from fiction to magazine article writing to screenwriting. Several of these classes were how to write a novel. They gave me some great insight into the basics of writing and I highly recommend them if this is a path you think you may want to take.
I must admit it’s a little scary changing the course of your life in your thirties. I have done some sports writing and a lot of people ask if I am going to pursue that as a career and sadly I have to admit that it’s more of a path for someone younger. I have a large family (3 kids and another coming in the summer) and I can’t afford to intern somewhere or move across country to be the sports guy for the local paper to pay my dues. No, while writing about sports will always be a passion for me, my dream is to write novels. It is one dream that I can still chase and not have to sacrifice my family life, in fact if I succeed it will be the best thing in the world for my family because my schedule will be far more flexible than it has always been working retail.
I am a realist though, I can’t afford not to be. That’s why I am still considering getting my Master’s in Technical Communication from ASU. I need to have a fallback, but that’s where my favorite quote at the top comes in. I have prepared my wife that it could take two years, or five, or even ten to accomplish my dream. The attitude I must keep though, is when not if. After all Stephen King said it best.
“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”