Becoming a Writer

December 2015: How did I become a writer? I’ve always been a reader, and, for as long as I can remember, I’ve had the urge to write something others could read. Note that word “urge.” It was an urge, not a passion. I thought I had to make a living, and I could not conceive of doing that by writing. Any number of times over the years, I’ve started a story flush with ideas . .  But somehow there was always something else to do. Postponing a large, time-consuming task—like writing—is easy to rationalize. And besides, real writers wrote the books I loved to read. I was a reader, not a writer. I could never do that.

Instead, I pursued a career in academics. Along the way I had to do a lot of writing. I could write, and I did write, but all that writing was turgid-worded academic stuff. I wrote for other academics. Still, I kept having story ideas, and I kept starting stories. A few I even finished. They suffered from my stylistic habits learned in academe, but I had fun telling the stories.

What finally tipped me over the edge to get serious about writing was my dissertation, a major, book-length academic writing project. Once it was complete and approved, I heaved a great sigh of relief. I’d endured a concentrated six months of scholarly constipation.

I was so sick of being serious and creating nothing but stodgy, affected academic prose that, in a reflexive counter action, I sat down and wrote a completely trashy, smutty short story. I finished it. I liked it. It made me laugh. Most importantly, I really enjoyed writing it. I knew I could write, but if I could enjoy myself while doing it? Well, gee . . .

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