I just realized that it was ten years ago this month that I started this journey to be a writer.
Sure, before I began, I packed some provisions and planned an itinerary (as much as such a journey can be planned) and did some moderate training, but ten years ago, the journey began when I started the M.A. program at the University of Cincinnati.
I noticed a few significant changes right away:
1. I stopped writing about how much I wanted to be a writer, and I started writing. Between taking classes, teaching Comp., and being a mom, there was no time to muse about what I wanted to do; I just had to do it, dammit.
2. I started calling myself a fiction writer. I wouldn’t have let myself get away with such an audacious claim (for I felt I hadn’t “earned” the title), but as I met new people in the program, they wanted to know: Are you a scholar, a poet, or a fiction writer? I was a fiction writer!
3. I was alive. I knew I was doing what I wanted to be doing, what I should be doing, what I needed to do.
But I also realized that things don’t change overnight. Even though I started writing stories instead of writing about wanting to write stories, I had a lot to learn about writing stories. And even though I called myself a fiction writer (if only to distinguish myself from the poets and scholars), it was a long time before I became a published fiction writer. Now it’s been ten years, and my first book is finally going to be published.
The new semester has started, and at school and at Art Beat (last weekend), I’ve been talking to people who want to be writers. They want to know what to do, where to go. I think they think I can help them. But all I can suggest is that they start by making a change, even a small one. Sign up for a class, join a group, go to a conference, apply to grad school, attend a local reading, finish that manuscript. Lather, rinse, repeat. Repeat. Repeat. And get back to me in ten years.
[Aside: In one of my first stories that I submitted for workshop, the title and the last line were the same phrase. One of my classmates let me know it was a lame device, and I am and was grateful. So, in an effort not to end this post with the same line as the title, I’m adding this aside/disclaimer. Which is itself probably a lame device…]