I was 17 when I first decided to be a writer. Before that, I was an artist – or at least, I drew non-stop from the age of two on.
I wrote some short stories in 4th grade when my teacher assigned them for homework using that week’s vocabulary words. Mine were the ones that she always read to the class. When I was 15, I started writing poetry, having discovered Rod McKuen, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Leonard Cohen and other poets. In 11th grade, my teacher wrote on one of my essay papers, “It’s always so hard to grade your writing. It reads like beautiful poetry.”
But it was in my senior year, at age 17, that my creative writing teacher asked me, “Have you ever thought about being a writer?” He was serious in his question and his faith in my writing gave a voice to a dream I had been too scared to say out loud. His name was Glenn Heyward and, in my life, he was the teacher who made a difference.
I certainly had a great foundation for stories. I was an Air Force Brat with plenty of real and unusual adventures that made for great writing material: three tours of duty in England; stateside bases in New York, New Jersey and Florida; 16 schools in 12 years; 22 homes before I was 18. This gypsy life gave me the mettle to later attend my college sight unseen and then move to Chicago after graduation and later reunite with my high school sweetheart, have a child at 41, and make our recent move to London. Whenever I have faced a scary decision, my military upbringing has taught me to confront each challenge by asking two simple questions: what’s the worst that can happen? The answer could be “no” and I can live with that. What’s the best? It could be “yes.” It’s the “yes” that has always kept me moving towards my dreams by taking chances.
The writing path is not for the fainthearted, although I didn’t know that when I was younger. The pay often sucks, the competition can be fierce, and the pickings can be thin. But some of the worst jobs I’ve had were actually beneficial to my writing, even if they seemed depressing at the time: Advertising to me was boring and insulted my grammar sensibilities but gave me a lifelong love for clever marketing campaigns. Writing astrology copy in 200-word sections was mind numbing but taught me to make every word count. And writing slide and presentation scripts for a Humane Education public relations job at an animal shelter filled me with despair at the plight of homeless pets and the awakening realization that our society throws animals away like garbage. In fact, that job was the worst job of all – and affected my mental and physical well being to the point where my doctor said to me, “I don’t know where you work, but you need to quit. It’s attacking your health.” Yet, in many ways, it was the best job I have ever had. I gained knowledge about dogs and cats, animal welfare and over population, and it gave me a passion for animals that continues to grow – ironic for someone who never had a pet until after high school due to our nomadic Air Force life.
But it took being laid off from that shelter job because of county-wide budget cuts to finally become a freelance writer, something I had always wanted to be but could never financially afford to do. When there’s no steady paycheck coming in, it’s easy to look for opportunities in hidden places – like the time I convinced a marketing company for financial institutions that it needed a writer to write profiles and bios for its competing banking clientele. I’ve been a full-time freelance writer for years now, working in a wide array of writing fields, and I am the author of four books sold on Amazon and other sites.
I am also touching base with my neglected artistic side – working on paintings and pen and ink, learning how to draw digitally on a tablet, designing unique rosary beads, and creating a comic strip. Life, it seems, really is a circle if you work at rediscovering the good parts from the past that you’ve discarded or forsaken in the busyness of living life.
Still, writing is my first love and I look forward to my next challenging opportunity. Contact me if that’s you.