The Crooked Path of My Life's Work

Like most young people, I was unsure what I wanted to do with my life.  I knew that I liked to write.  I just didn't know what to do with it or how to use it to make a living. I guess that's why my path wasn't straight.  In fact, it twisted and turned all over the place.

I started out doing the thing most often expected of English majors--teaching. I hadn't really wanted to teach, and shortly after I started, a fellow teacher told me: Those who can, do; Those who can't, teach. Iknew that I wanted to be a doer.

So I went sideways on the path and took a writing-related job in industry as a technical editor.  If there are two sides to your brain, the critical side and and creative side, editing is an activity firmly encamped on the critical side. It's all about rules and correctness. It spelled death to my imagination and led to brain stagnation. I edited reports about solid propellant rocket motors--ugh!--while the company I worked for was responsible for the deaths of seven people aboard the space shuttle when their rocket motors failed.  As soon as I could, I escaped.

Then I went backward and did something barely related to writing. I took a part-time job as a reader for a blind attorney. The part time bit allowed me some writing time, but once again the job itself was deadly boring. I read aloud trust agreements and wills to a lawyer who worked for a bank, and in the short time I was there, I learned that the only people who truly mattered were those who had lots of money, and they went to great lengths to keep it out of the hands of their descendants, as if it still belonged to them after death.

In between all my jobs in academia, industry, and banking, I wrote non-fiction articles for newspapers and magazines. For a while, I had a regular gig writing articles for a magazine called LifeSports, where I wrote about everything from windsurfing to shuffleboard. It was fun, but it didn't move or inspire me. I loved novels. Stories make me think, give me insight into myself and the world. Beautifully written books with a thoughtful message, they help make the world a better place and I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to touch someone's heart, perhaps give him a new insight or cause her to consider something differently.

Writers aren't all about money, they do it because they're inspired to, because they love the written word, because they're driven to, and because they know that nothing else they will do in life will really satisfy. But there's trials and tribulations that go along with it. Generally, they need a patron or an alternate source of income that allows them time to write. I was slow in figuring all this out, and it wasn't until late middle age that I finally found the right combination of writing and work, and that has only been possible because of my perseverance and because of my beloved husband.

So if you want to write, don't despair.  The road may be twisting and steep. Just always keep your eyes always on the page.