I didn’t always want to be a writer. When I was little I wanted to be a priest. Then I found out that girls couldn’t be priests, and that pretty much ended my religious vocation idea. I wanted to be a famous artist until I realized how hard it was to become famous.
I floated through a number of jobs until I finally realized that I could actually make a living doing something I’ve always loved to do… write. I got a job as a receptionist at a graphic arts company that was filled with zany and creative people. Since nobody else liked the writing part of putting together catalogs and ads, I happily took on that responsibility I built my skimpy portfolio one little piece after another. It wasn’t great work but it was something in print.
After the owner (who had an irritating tendency to grab my ass from time to time) drove the business into the ground, I took my portfolio and began interviewing with advertising agencies. At Roth Graham, I was interviewed by the late and beloved Ralph Bauer, along with freelance art director Judith Connor. Apparently they saw something hopeful in my work and I was hired.
I still remember driving to work each morning thinking, “Gee, I’m a real writer!” It was a thrill to help people sell goods and services. I especially loved producing radio ads. With sound effects and talents like Patrick Coyle and Sue Scott, anything can happen on radio.
After working at the agency for nine years, I started my own business and wrote for hundreds of clients in a huge variety of industries. It was fun and lucrative. Every new client and subject matter were challenges and I loved it. When times got tough and the work started drying up, I shifted my focus to publishing and teaching.
Throughout all this, I always wrote on my own as well. Poetry is my great love, with creative nonfiction a close second. I began publishing poems and essays and self-published my first poetry book. I applied for and received residency fellowships where I completed a full length collection of poems as well as the first draft of two nonfiction books. I was dedicated. I sent things out and followed up. I did my work and never quit. That might make me more stubborn, but certainly no better than anyone else.
I meet a lot of people who want to be writers. I ask them, “What do writers do that other people don’t do?”
That’s right. They write. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. If you want to write, do it. Read, too, to know what’s out there. Keep writing and you will discover your own voice and style. Don’t be like me. Write every day if you can. Even it it’s just for a few minutes.
Remember, it can’t happen without you.