That Magic Moment

From Mary Jo

One of our regular Wenchlings asked me when I knew I was meant to be a writer and suggested that it was a question worth blogging.  I agree that the question is an intriguing one, but I’ll bet that others have a much more interesting answer than I do.

Diabolical_baronoriginal The bald fact is that I knew I was a writer when I was offered a contract for my first book.  Boringly mundane, no?  Yet it’s the truth.  I was always a daydreamer, spinning stories in my head when sitting bored in classes.  (And I was bored a lot.)  I even thought that being a writer would be Totally Cool, but it never occurred to me that I could ever occupy one of those pedestals in the sky where writers live.  (Feel free to laugh. <g>) 

But with my horrid handwriting and mildly dyslexic typing, becoming a writer never seemed even remotely possible.  I just couldn’t get the words down.  Writing was in the vague dream category, along with being tall, thin, or fashionably dressed. 

All that changed when I got my first computer to do copywriting and invoicing for my graphic design business.  (Ah, my darling Leading Edge!  We remember our first computers much as Regency fans remember their first Georgette Heyer.)  Once I learned the basics of word processing, it occurred to me that I’d always wanted to write a book, so let’s give it a try. 

I charged into that first book with no expectations at all—I just wanted to see what I could do.  I marked the floppy disk (5 ¼” yet!) with RR for Regency Romance, since I wasn’t ready to admit what I was doing even to myself.

One scene flowed into another, the story seemed to be working, I joined RWA, got the name of an agent from the friend of a friend, the agent marked up my 88 pages and sent them back with suggestions, and a few weeks later, I was offered a contract.

Yes, Virginia, that is the moment that I knew I was a writer.  Having no expectations made the process easy in a lot of ways.  I didn’t fear rejection since I didn’t expect acceptance. 

Of course, selling my first book changed everything.  I went from no expectations Diabolical_baronreissue to behaving like a crazed lemming determined to learn everything I could about writing and publishing.  I also developed my first and most powerful writing goal: to support myself as a writer. It took a few years, but I made it. 

I think the process is much, much harder for someone who early develops a passionate desire to be a writer.  Though actually, the problem is not so much writing, which can be a great creative high, but getting published, which is hard.  Usually very hard indeed. 

So maybe the real answer to the original question is that one knows one is a writer when one begins to write.  I have a little Post-It note on my monitor that says, “Writers write.”  Sometimes, when publishing is making me nuts, I need to remind myself of that.  I became a writer on the Saturday I sat down and started The Diabolical Baron.  I realized that I was a writer on the day someone offered actual money for my daydreams.

You are a writer when you are sitting down and producing words.  (Not long ago, I heard a young and successful writer say that one can be a writer in one’s mind.  Sorry, I don’t agree.  That’s daydreaming.  Real writing is not only imagination, it’s making the serious effort of getting words down in a form that can communicate to others even if you never show your work to anyone.) 

A person may or may not become published—that’s in the hands of others, out of the writer’s control.  There are some writers who write only for their own creative satisfaction, and perhaps they are the happiest of us all.  There is brilliant writing that may never be published because it simply doesn’t fit into a publisher’s paradigm.

But if you’re writing, you’re a writer.  Own that identity, and be proud.  You’re doing what many only dream of. 

Ccanadabanner On a lighter note: Happy Birthday, Canada!  July 1st is the official birthday of Canada, and lucky the United States is to be occupying the same continental land mass.  A bit of history if you’re interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_Day

Mary Jo, who grew up only forty miles from the Canadian border, and never misses a chance to visit. 

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15 thoughts on “That Magic Moment”

  1. Great story! It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
    “Talkers never write. They just go on talking.” — Christopher Morley, PARNASSUS ON WHEELS*
    *or just possibly the sequel, THE HAUNTED BOOKSHOP

    Reply
  2. Great story! It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
    “Talkers never write. They just go on talking.” — Christopher Morley, PARNASSUS ON WHEELS*
    *or just possibly the sequel, THE HAUNTED BOOKSHOP

    Reply
  3. Great story! It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
    “Talkers never write. They just go on talking.” — Christopher Morley, PARNASSUS ON WHEELS*
    *or just possibly the sequel, THE HAUNTED BOOKSHOP

    Reply
  4. MJ –
    Love it! A Leading Edge… boy do I remember those days! If you still have it, the Smithsonian might be interested in putting it on display in one of those ‘out of our past’ collections.
    Thank you for sharing your story. You look great sitting up there, high in the sky, on your writer’s pedestal.
    You remind me of one of Ben Franklin’s famous quotes. “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth the reading or do things worth the writing.” You, MJ, have done and continue to do both.
    Nina
    — the littlest wenchling who is choosing to own that she is a writer.

    Reply
  5. MJ –
    Love it! A Leading Edge… boy do I remember those days! If you still have it, the Smithsonian might be interested in putting it on display in one of those ‘out of our past’ collections.
    Thank you for sharing your story. You look great sitting up there, high in the sky, on your writer’s pedestal.
    You remind me of one of Ben Franklin’s famous quotes. “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth the reading or do things worth the writing.” You, MJ, have done and continue to do both.
    Nina
    — the littlest wenchling who is choosing to own that she is a writer.

    Reply
  6. MJ –
    Love it! A Leading Edge… boy do I remember those days! If you still have it, the Smithsonian might be interested in putting it on display in one of those ‘out of our past’ collections.
    Thank you for sharing your story. You look great sitting up there, high in the sky, on your writer’s pedestal.
    You remind me of one of Ben Franklin’s famous quotes. “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth the reading or do things worth the writing.” You, MJ, have done and continue to do both.
    Nina
    — the littlest wenchling who is choosing to own that she is a writer.

    Reply
  7. Mary Jo, I was one of the one who knew early on (about age seven or eight) that I had to be a writer, and started writing my first play not long thereafter. But it isn’t all that bad to have the bug early. For one thing, the idea of getting published was so very distant that I had decades of not worrying about it, just writing a lot of bad poetry and working endlessly on The Great American Novel. Too, having the bug made me look at all those papers I had to write in college as practice. Later, when I got commercial writing jobs, I was simply thrilled to get paid for what I most wanted to do. Ah, my first computer. A Wang Word Processor. How I loved it, and how I cursed when I had to adjust to a PC.

    Reply
  8. Mary Jo, I was one of the one who knew early on (about age seven or eight) that I had to be a writer, and started writing my first play not long thereafter. But it isn’t all that bad to have the bug early. For one thing, the idea of getting published was so very distant that I had decades of not worrying about it, just writing a lot of bad poetry and working endlessly on The Great American Novel. Too, having the bug made me look at all those papers I had to write in college as practice. Later, when I got commercial writing jobs, I was simply thrilled to get paid for what I most wanted to do. Ah, my first computer. A Wang Word Processor. How I loved it, and how I cursed when I had to adjust to a PC.

    Reply
  9. Mary Jo, I was one of the one who knew early on (about age seven or eight) that I had to be a writer, and started writing my first play not long thereafter. But it isn’t all that bad to have the bug early. For one thing, the idea of getting published was so very distant that I had decades of not worrying about it, just writing a lot of bad poetry and working endlessly on The Great American Novel. Too, having the bug made me look at all those papers I had to write in college as practice. Later, when I got commercial writing jobs, I was simply thrilled to get paid for what I most wanted to do. Ah, my first computer. A Wang Word Processor. How I loved it, and how I cursed when I had to adjust to a PC.

    Reply
  10. Great story, Mary Jo. And your post-it is right to the point. Yes, stories may percolate in the head, but the only way to be a writer is to write them down 🙂
    And thanks for the Canada Day wishes!

    Reply
  11. Great story, Mary Jo. And your post-it is right to the point. Yes, stories may percolate in the head, but the only way to be a writer is to write them down 🙂
    And thanks for the Canada Day wishes!

    Reply
  12. Great story, Mary Jo. And your post-it is right to the point. Yes, stories may percolate in the head, but the only way to be a writer is to write them down 🙂
    And thanks for the Canada Day wishes!

    Reply
  13. Like Loretta, I started writing early, age nine, I believe, but I never dreamed anything so grandiose as the Great American Novel. Along with the Bad Poetry, I wrote romance. Tragic romance. At nine. I assume it was destiny.
    And I was a Leading Edge person. It was so simple…sigh.

    Reply
  14. Like Loretta, I started writing early, age nine, I believe, but I never dreamed anything so grandiose as the Great American Novel. Along with the Bad Poetry, I wrote romance. Tragic romance. At nine. I assume it was destiny.
    And I was a Leading Edge person. It was so simple…sigh.

    Reply
  15. Like Loretta, I started writing early, age nine, I believe, but I never dreamed anything so grandiose as the Great American Novel. Along with the Bad Poetry, I wrote romance. Tragic romance. At nine. I assume it was destiny.
    And I was a Leading Edge person. It was so simple…sigh.

    Reply

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