“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” – Philip Roth
I was a recently asked by Gina at lovelesswriting.com to partake in her “Who Said You Can’t Be A Writer” blog tour and share my story of how I followed the bread crumbed path to being a writer.
I often feel sheepish calling myself a writer. I reckon it’s similar to an unsure artist who’d rather be referred to as a painter. While I’ve found some solace writing here in my own travel blog, I nervously stutter when I refer to myself as a blogger. Comparable to the teaching idiom of:
Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.
I paint myself with the stripe of:
Those who can write, write. Those who can’t write, blog.
A bit harsh perhaps. I suppose it’s my “the glass is half empty” perspective weighing in.
My first attempt at writing was at eight years old after watching the first Star Wars movie in 1977. I quickly ran home and borrowed my brother’s electric type writer and started to write the sequel. This was three years before The Empire Strikes Back was released. I didn’t understand what good writing was supposed be, look or sound like. I had just spent two hours being told the greatest story that I had ever experienced in my first eight years of life. I just wanted to be a story teller and it is telling stories that I love most about writing.
Other than high school and university essays and one honourable mention for a poem that I wrote for a school literary publication, I never wrote another story for another 25 years. I didn’t stop writing due to any particular person or event. Somewhere along the line, I grew up. I became practical. At some point, I came to believe that making a living as a writer would be difficult.
The biggest hurdle wasn’t any person or thing. The biggest hurdle was me.
The gift of Star Wars was not only its ability to entertain, but the movie’s ability to tell a story so engaging that for two hours I had complete suspension of disbelief. For two hours my imagination was set free. For two hours, I dreamed feely the way only a child could. Somewhere between adolescence and adulthood, I lost the capacity to dream and stretch my imagination.
Without the ability to dream, I had only two life paths to choose from: safe and safer. The safe path for me would be to attend university. I wasn’t a believer in higher education but university was a convenient solution to avoid looking for a job. My gut instinct whispered that I should head east to Ryerson University in Toronto to attend film school. That soft inner voice was quickly drowned out by logic and practicality. I took the “safe” route, stayed in Vancouver and attended UBC and earned a degree in business.
Flash forward 25 years. After a few failed entrepreneurial start-up ventures, I settled into a blue chip company for the past 10 years. Despite some form of employment and financial security, inner peace looked a unicorn and contentment resembled a slice of Swiss cheese.
My company was gracious enough to grant me a year-long sabbatical. I took the opportunity to travel and live abroad for this year. Before leaving the shores of Canada, I decided to start this travel blog to document my travels and as an excuse to write again. I often think, outside of my family and my 27 or so friends and acquaintances, who out there in the cyber-sphere is actually reading my prose?
As I started to write again, I felt my alter ego peak its head out from dormancy. I get to be that eight year old boy again. I can spread my wings briefly; even for a quick flutter. This feeling of youthful exuberance was the closest I’ve been since my first real love which was running. I was an exceptional runner in high school and the notion of money never entered into my mind. I would have ran and competed for free.
During this year long sabbatical, I’ve settled down for much of it so far in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Chiang Mai is well known for its digital nomad community whereby people earn their living remotely, independent of location. Freelance writing is popular source of income for many of these nomads. I’ve even been approached by many companies to do writing assignments.
Upon further investigation, writing took the form of more than just writing prose. There’s a gentleman living in my apartment complex that’s been a technical writer for 40 years. I just assumed technical writing was informational style writing for text books and research. Apparently good technical writers are hard to come by as much of this type of writing is for national policies that need to adhere to specific world standards. The writers that are familiar with these standards are eagerly sought after and handsomely compensated.
Another form of writing that can be lucrative is copywriting. A number of people that I’ve met in Chiang Mai that are involved with marketing funnels suggested that I would be good at copy writing. The further I investigated, the more interested I got. The art and science of writing persuasive copy is rather fascinating and is a different animal than writing prose.
Along with writers and bloggers, Chiang Mai also has a large community of computer programmers. The more time that I spent with programmers, the more interest I had in learning to write code. As I spent some time teaching myself computer code, I realized that programming was simply another form of writing. As a writer of prose, I use words as building blocks to create a story. With programmers, instead of words, they use packets of binary code (computer language) to create their story. Whether you’re a writer or programmer, the essence of the craft is the ability to assemble blocks of language to create something new.
I have no formal training as a writer. I just listened to that inner voice that I squelched all these years and just started to punch keys again. The only significant thing I did was to simply act. Taking action creates some inertia that leads to further action.
And to answer the title of this post: Am I a writer or just a guy who writes?
Does it really matter?
“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” – Allen Ginsberg
Are you a writer or have a desire to write? What is your experience and journey been like so far?
“The Who Said You Can’t Be A Writer” Blog Tour was created to inspire and remind writers that their inner desire to be an author is the most important thing that they have. the 10 bloggers participating in the tour each share a time when they have been told they couldn’t be writers, whether they were told by others, or they had trouble believing it for themselves, and how they overcame it. To sign-up and hear the other stories head to tinyurl.com/who-said-blog-tour.