How not to become a writer . . .(pt.1)
This is going to be a long post, so I thought I’d break it up and write about this topic over several posts.
When I first decided to become a writer it wasn’t because I wanted to help people, or thought I had anything important to say; no “Great American Novel” lurking in the furthest recesses of my admittedly limited imagination. I just thought it was a really cool way of earning a living. I was twenty-two, recently discharged from the Navy and casting about for some means of making a buck. Writing seemed an ideal choice. Of course, I had no background in writing and no training other than a couple of English Lit. courses in high school. But I read a lot while in the Navy (mostly “trashy” novels and pulp spy thrillers) and thought, naively, I could write as well as the guys whose work I was reading. After all, I thought, “How hard can it be?”
It turns out it takes almost as much skill to write “trash” as it does to produce “quality” fiction. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. Back then what I knew about writing was, come up with an idea, write it down, send it to a publisher and wait for the money to start rolling in. Doesn’t work that way. (Duh!)
It didn’t take long for me to realize I needed help. I decided to take advantage of the G.I. Bill and enroll in the local community college. I could get both help for my writing and an education that would allow me to get a decent job if this “writing thing” didn’t work out. (By the way, don’t ever embark on a writing career with the idea that, at some point, “it may not work out!”)
Time passed and my life began to take on a routine of sorts. I was still writing more or less regularly, but the demands of married life (I had gotten married shortly after college) began to intrude on the writing. I took whatever work I could find; drove a cab, worked in a pizza shop, tended bar part-time in order to leave time for my writing which, after three years, was beginning to show results; meager results, but results nonetheless. I managed to have a couple of op-ed pieces published in the local paper (no money, but published clips to show editors); a piece on Hemingway was published in a literary magazine (contributor’s copies). All I needed was one good break. Then everything changed. . . .(to be continued)