When I Knew I Was a Writer
I used to distinguish between the words “writer” and “author.” You see, I’ve been a professional writer since before I graduated college, and a writer since I knew how to write. Authors were a different breed—they were published fiction writers.
When I was little, I used to draw pictures and write stories or reports to go with them. When I was in second grade, we had spelling pre-tests on Mondays (before we were introduced to the words for the week). Students who got 100% on the pre-tests were asked to write stories on Fridays when the rest of the class took their official test. I usually aced the pre-tests, and on Fridays I would create fascinating characters in magical worlds. Sometimes I continued those stories at home, just so I could complete what I’d started in class. In junior high and high school, I’d write poetry in my free time. If I’d had a computer back then, I probably would have written more. You can only do so much with writer’s cramps in your hands.
I wasn’t an author, though. I was a hobbiest.
When I went to college, I considered writing as a major. Many discouraged that choice (never my parents, though). People said all I could do with a writing degree was teach or write books, and few people ever get their books published. So I majored in business, which I hated, and then architecture, which I didn’t care for either. Running out of time and options, I defaulted to English. Even after changing my major so many times, I was able to not only catch up, but double major, write for the faculty newspaper, and create software documentation for an on-campus software developer. All that, and I graduated on time. I got my degree in Professional Writing and Creative Writing, and did so well the university offered me a scholarship to continue my studies. I jumped at the chance and began writing for more on-campus departments. I took an internship with the H&SS College’s Public Relations Department and managed to get my master’s degree one semester early. After graduation, I started working for local companies. I started as a copywriter for a local travel agency, then I worked in the development department for a nursing home, which I left for a corporate communications job at an engineering firm. After the birth of my first child, I left that department and transferred to the technical writing side of the company.
I’d been writing since I was young. I had been a writer since college. But I wouldn’t even consider calling myself an author.
After my second child was born, I quit working to be a stay-at-home mom. I loved it, but I missed writing. My parents suggested I write a book, but I was busy with my children. Instead, I took some freelance writing jobs. When the kids got older, I even starting teaching three writing classes at a local college.
I had gone from writing to teaching. I began to doubt that I was even a writer any longer.
But then we moved, and I was without a job. The kids were in school, and I had nothing to do. I decided to try my hand at fiction. It had always been a passion of mine; I might as well explore it.
I read books, I joined critique groups, I went to conferences and workshops.
And I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.
I had short stories published in a little over a year.
Three years into the process, I have a published novel, an agent, and a job as an editor.
I am a “writer” and an “author.”
And what did I learn from that odyssey?
I’d been a writer and an author ever since I put words to my pictures as a young girl.
In fact, I don’t even distinguish between the terms any longer.
I may have resisted calling myself a writer for a long time, but it seems I was born one.
And I’ll be a writer until I die.