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Giving Birth to a Writing Career

March 6, 2011

I am a writer!  I feel confident now in pronouncing this openly and without hesitation.  Why – you might ask – after six months of writing ‘professionally’ (posting weekly essays to my blog, penning short stories for contests, working tirelessly on my novel) would I suddenly decide it’s time to declare myself an honest-to-goodness writer? Why not sooner? (Or, indeed, why not later?)

Becoming a writer is very much like becoming a (first time) mother.  It may be something you’ve thought about, planned, or dreamed of doing for much of your life (when I was five years old, I wrote in my ‘baby book’ that I wanted to be ‘a mommy’ when I grew up; I’ve wanted to be a [professional] writer since I was sixteen or seventeen) – or it may be something that ‘just happens’. Either way, the journey is not dissimilar.

PregnancyDuring pregnancy a woman prepares herself for the changes that being a mother will bring (less sleep, less money, more joy, greater moments of love, affection and achievement for that which you have brought into the world – and more grief, heartache and worry than you could ever possibly have imagined).  Even though people ‘notice’ the pregnancy – and may comment on it – you rarely, during those long nine months, refer to yourself openly as ‘a mother’.  Oh, you think about it, and practice saying it, and wonder how it will feel once it comes to pass – but it’s really just the warm up for the opening act.

And then it happens.  You give birth and you ARE a mother. You can say it out loud, for all the world to hear.  People will congratulate you, some will envy you, others will despair for you.  But you have become what you dreamed during those long days (and nights) of waiting.  A mother.  For now and forever. Hooray!

For most of us in the ‘writing game’, the process is quite similar.  A seed is planted and is slowly nurtured. We practice, as it were, what it is we hope to become – a writer.  We think about the ‘rewards’ (less sleep, less money, more joy, greater moments of love, affection and achievement for that which we will bring into the world – and more grief, heartache and worry than we could ever possibly imagine) as our craft grows inside us.  Some ‘pregnant’ writers keep a journal, others jot down poems, stories, memoirs, personal essays. They may send pieces to family or friends as a kind of ‘warm up’ for that broader, more demanding audience that’s yet to come.  The bolder of us enter contests or start blogs, pushing our not-yet-fully-formed creations out in front of us as if – like the pregnant bellies of expectant mothers – we’re saying ‘Hey, look what I’ve created. It won’t be long now. Pretty soon, I’m going to be a writer.’

And then it happens.  You write a piece so unique, so perfect, that others take notice (congratulations, envy, disdain may follow your literary birth).  Your creation wins a contest, or gets published, or you simply KNOW that what you’ve created is so special that it will outlive you.  The waiting is over. You can say – aloud and for all the world to hear – ‘I am a writer’.  For now and forever. Hooray!

This past week, it was revealed that the story I submitted to the Burlington Public Library short story contest won first prize!  The announcement was made at a celebration for the writers who had entered the contest (including my youngest son, I am proud to say) and I was both surprised and thrilled to hear that the judges (Lynda Simmons, John Lawrence Reynolds, Melodie Campbell) were unanimous in their decision to award my piece first place.  And as I listened to Lynda read my story (“How to Spell Bread”, below) aloud – giving voice to my characters, and bringing the setting alive – something significant shifted inside me.  I realized that the waiting was over.  I had become a writer.    

A great many people thought I was crazy when I gave up a long-time, lucrative career (see “Best Before…” if you don’t know the story of how I got to where I am) to write full time (some STILL think I’m a little ‘off my nut’).  I knew they were wrong.  And while I have had a lot of very positive feedback in a fairly short period of time, it was this win that has pushed my writing career out into the world.  It has given me the confidence – and the strength – to say – out loud and for all the world to hear – I AM A WRITER! 

I would like to thank the Burlington Public Library for hosting the contest, the judges for their kind words, and the Burlington Post for printing my story in its entirety in last Thursday’s paper. But most of all, I would like to thank all the people (family, friends, blog followers) who’ve supported me and provided encouragement over the past six months.  Believe me when I say that this is just the beginning – I plan to continue growing my ‘family’ of accomplishments as I keep on writing about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness here on … the other side of 55.

I Am A Writer

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3 Comments
  1. Cathy Hendrix permalink
    March 7, 2011 9:43 pm

    Congratulations again, Margo. What a feeling it must be! Hopefully, maybe within the next year if I’m lucky, I might be able to say something similar and really feel it down in my bones. Thanks for everything you’ve done for me. I wish you years and years of successful writing and I want to be there when your first book hits the shelves of Indigo!

  2. Lori D'Angelo permalink
    March 7, 2011 10:53 am

    Margo:

    Congratulations…although in my mind, from the first article I read that you wrote (Best Before …, The Other Side of 55)…you were definitely a writer…and an accomplished one at that!

    • March 7, 2011 11:12 am

      Lori,

      Thanks! I suppose – like any new endeavour – the idea takes a bit of getting used to before you feel you can call yourself by the professional moniker attached to the job (I remember how hard it was to call myself ‘Professor’ in the early days of teaching). I appreciate your support!

      Margo

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