One of the greatest things about social media is all the amazing writers I have met. I have found the online writing community to be open and welcoming. Lyndsey Medford is one of those writers. I love her story that she's sharing with us today here on The Writer's Block and I think it will resonate with other writers as well.
"So why don't you walk out and become a bestselling author instead of sitting around here with these people?"
I could only blink at this stranger, sitting across from me in his book-walled office. I waited another beat—surely a laugh was coming—but he just looked back at me, expecting a serious answer to his evidently serious question.
I was in town for a Ph.D. interview. The professor now before me had read my application and asked to speak with me. I don't know what I'd expected, but it wasn't to have my motives and career choices interrogated like this.
At the time, the episode felt like an odd side note in a whirlwind weekend. Eventually, though, it would be a catalyst turning the worst rejection of my life into a new career. Two years later, I'm not a bestselling author—but I have become a writer.
My writing career started with eighteen years of reading; I owe it to my mom for those weekly trips to the library to keep me stocked with a novel a day. I always like writing, the chance to play with the words myself, and by the time I applied to the Ph.D., I'd been blogging for years. But "being a writer" still rang in my ear as a pretentious, foolish, and unattainable career choice.
Over time, though, with that bizarre interview still in the back of my head, I began to dedicate a little more time to writing after my hours on the job working for a test-prep tech startup.
Then, even when I was offered a big freelance job I hadn't applied for (an editor friend was in a jam and asked me to step in on a project), my initial inclination was to call it a fluke. But as I began to work on the project, I finally entertained the "what ifs" that I'd formerly considered only daydreams. What if I really tried at all this? What if I took the time and energy to work on all the ideas bouncing around in my head? What if I learned how books get published and took some steps toward being an author?
What if I actually called myself a writer?
Something I'm still learning about writing is that if you've heard a story a thousand and one times, it's not because the story is just a cliché; it's because that story resonates deeply with millions of people. The writer's job isn't always to invent the most original idea. It's to bring it to life again from our own perspective and voice—to shed light on even one tiny facet of our experience that otherwise would've fluttered unnoticed to the floor.
Here's my own oft-told tale: I've been a writer all my life, but it took courage to finally name myself as one. It took a combination of patient labor in obscurity and a couple lucky breaks before I could imagine my work might have (actual, monetary) value to someone else.
Clutching the story of the professor's office and my first couple of freelance checks, I started telling people I'm a writer, expecting the vocation police to pop out from behind somewhere to exclaim, NO YOU'RE NOT!
Instead, my family and friends treated it like a non-event: well, of course you are.
Being a writer means investing time and energy into a writing discipline. It means traveling to learn about the publishing industry and meet new people. It means supporting other writers and working to develop my craft.
Even if it never means becoming a bestselling author as prophesied, choosing to call myself a writer has meant permission to take seriously my own dreams, gifts, and joys. By doing so I've already met incredible people, made a few dollars, been invited to the Collegeville Institute writer's workshop—and I think I've told a few stories that mattered to someone else along the way.