I turn 50 years old this year and for the first time in my life, I consider myself a writer.
I was first published when I was 10 years old. Oh, those were heady days. My sixth grade teacher sent my poem to the local paper and I got my first byline. And then there were the interviews, the bestseller lists, the endless supply of candy and gum. Hey, I was 10 – my fantasy writer life hadn’t quite matured.
The intervening decades are notable for a lack of publication and several long stretches of not writing at all. It’s now the time of life when I’m supposed to be regretful and write some sort of bucket list. I should wish that I had started this whole writing thing earlier. I should wring my hands at the wasted hours and moments when I could have been composing that bestseller.
Instead, I joined the army, traveled, got out of the army, went to college, worked mediocre jobs, got married, had a child, and then, five years ago, I decided that it was time to write. It wasn’t a cold start – I’d been writing newsletters, web content, and business correspondence for nearly all of my working life, but it felt new.
I always joke that in any fable I’m the tortoise. I’m a slow mover, but I keep moving.
Too often, especially in a society that values wunderkinds and regurgitates all those “success under 30” lists, it’s easy to be discouraged. The thing is, when I sit down to write now, I know that this is the way it had to go down. I had too many interests, too many paths to try out, too many options to test. I wasn’t ready to devote myself to a single vocation.
There are people who know right from the get-go who they want to be. I envied them for a long time. I looked askance at my dilettante habits of barely mastering one thing before I moved onto another. It took me many years to value my interest in practically everything. I didn’t know at the time that I was building my personal writing encyclopedia. I have never uttered the words “I don’t know what to write about” and I’ve never been able to use writer’s block as a catchall excuse.
I’ve learned a lot over the last five years of writing regularly. What I learned most is that every writer has to find their own pace, work habits, environment, and process. Here are mine:
When I write
I write at all times of the day, but it has become abundantly clear that I do my best writing early in the morning. I have a friend who writes well into the night, at a time when my brain is no good for anything but a pillow. I get up at 4 am, while my husband and daughter are still sleeping. After a cup of tea and feeding the cats (they love to snack), I can get the core of my post or chapter done and edit it throughout the day.
Where I write
In the days before I lived in a house, writing at any table did the trick. Now, I am fortunate to have a study where I write and do just about everything else, which can be distracting. I generally have to clear my desk, all piles of paperwork out of sight, in order to focus. Many writers love coffee shops, but I prefer silence. There’s a quiet room at my local library that I sometimes use. I spent a lot of time waiting for my daughter at orchestra practice and finally bought a laptop. I find quiet corners, outside benches, any place where I can focus.
How I write
As my penmanship is atrocious, I only use longhand for notes, which I hope I’ll be able to read later. I start off with a premise and then write until it is something quite different. Writing is a process of discovery and I never know where I’m going until I get there. I will read a piece over and over until the rhythm feels right.
Why I write
I’m a writer because I’m a reader. There is nothing more amazing to me than reaching the end of the book and realizing the writer was a magician who drew me in and held me captive with a story.
As is the case for many writers, writing is my way of processing a complex world – inner and outer. I’m pragmatic about it, though. I will likely never make much money from it. I pitched my novel to several agents at a conference a few months ago and was thrilled to get interest, but I still have a lot of work to get done before submission.
I turn 50 this year and I am a writer. It’s about time.
Guest writer Michelle Jayne is a blogger, veteran, spouse, pet flunky and trained flautist living with her family in Minnesota, USA. She has a degree in Soviet and East European Studies and is currently finishing Children of the Fragile Air, a literary novel. Michelle blogs at The Green Study and can be found on Twitter and Facebook
Via #daily-prompt Snack
Unstuck is always on the lookout for fresh perspectives and kickass writing. If you’d like to do a guest post for this blog, send an email to TheUnstuckBlog@gmail.com
Writing is a lonely vocation and people who take it up need so much more encouragement. Unstuck is showing some love to bloggers who are all about the craft with a list of the top 10 posts on writing. For your reading pleasure.
- Author interview – Maesa Delta (Too full to write)
- What makes a good writer? AM Bradley
- The writer-reader bond (Meet yua higher self)
- The joys of being a writer – Rayne Abigail Morales
- The writer, the novel, the ending – Paul
- Writer’s block and how to overcome it – Lois May
- 10 things a young writer should know – Vincent Mars
- Writer ups and downs – Deborah O Carroll
- Can male writers satisfy women’s hottest romance fantasies? Katya Evangeline
- Are writers allowed to express political opinions? Allison Maruska
- Snacking on dry squid – The ponderin papaya
- Snacking is bad – Matt Cowper
- 12 choices for health snacking – Whole hearty happy
- Day one Sicily – Browney 237
- Quick yummy snack – Mainline matter
- Nibble gobble chew – Maine forest cafe
- Nutrition benefit – The shower of blessings
- Dirty little daydreams
- The trouble with travel – Hockey mom fit life
- Bad dad cartoons
- Cinnamon chocolate mini figures – Key to the brick
- Red white and blue jell-o cups – Night owl Gail