When I was a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian. And an actress. And a teacher. I wanted to be all the cliché things that little girls want to be before they really understand who they are or what they like. (Not that some little girls don’t eventually realize that they really do want to be veterinarians or actresses or teachers.) Sometimes, when I was asked what I wanted to be, I’d say “writer.”
For me, a writer was a mythic and shadowy figure – a genius who inhabited this otherworldly cerebral realm in which he was called upon for doses of wisdom, stunning insights, and clever anecdotes. That wasn’t me. Becoming a professional writer wasn’t something that I thought I had a chance of doing – and any chance I thought I did have involved an unforeseen transformation, a “becoming” in which I was suddenly blessed with said wisdom and insight and wit.
A Different Path
Although I hadn’t yet experienced this grand transformation to writer, I still couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing by the time I got to college. When it came time to pick a major, I chose the closest thing to “writing” I could: English. I still couldn’t manage the courage to write anything more than class papers or scribbles in my journal. But I knew I didn’t have the capacity for anything else. Doctor? Lawyer? They were even more elusive figures.
I decided to try the school newspaper, thinking that I could take care of administrative tasks or some other office work. Luckily, the paper’s advisor didn’t let me off that easy. I was soon writing articles regularly. Within a few months, I was the chief contributing writer. I was surprised by how easy it was. I thought that it must be the paper – surely, their standards were not as high as they should be.
I wasn’t writing award-winning novels, but it was a start towards “real” writing.
What’s a “Real Writer?”
It has been years since I graduated from college, and I have written extensively for multiple publications and Web sites, yet I still struggle with what it means to be a “real writer.” I still haven’t published any books. I haven’t even published a short story in a magazine. But I have seen my byline published hundreds of times. And I’ve somehow managed to make a living as a writer.
A professor in one of my creative writing classes once told me that to be a writer, you have to have an attitude. You can’t apologize for what you say. You just have to believe in what you’re writing and forget about what other people think of it. It took me awhile to realize that I was missing that attitude.
If being a “real writer” doesn’t mean writing regularly, publishing regularly, and even being paid to write, then what does it mean? I may never publish a novel. I may never work from home laboring over long tomes that are finished every few years or so and are then rewarded by large paychecks that keep me going for the next several years. But I will continue to see my name in print. I will continue to get a paycheck for what I have to say – even if I do have to say it from a keyboard in an office. And whether I’m doling out words of wisdom about life lessons or telling someone the benefits of a healthy diet, I’m still influencing other people with what I have to say. If those things don’t make me a real writer, then I don’t think anything ever will.
Bio: Lisa Shoreland is currently a resident blogger at Go College, where recently she’s been researching applying for scholarships as well as art grants. In her spare time, she enjoys creative writing, practicing martial arts, and taking weekend trips.