Are you prepared for writing?

Last night Eldest began the process of applying to colleges.  Yeah, I know.  I can’t believe he’s that old.  I’m also surprised that he’s as prepared as he is.  We’ve never really shaped his class load, yet his transcript looks like it’s been molded to fit perfectly with college expectations.

And even though he’s claimed he wanted to be an inventor (of toys and games, mind you) since the wee age of seven, I never really thought what that would mean for him and his high school curriculum.  Apparently, he did.  He’s taken all the right classes–heavy on math and science with some engineering type courses thrown in for good measure–with very little direction from us.

Due to his dyslexia, he struggles to read and write in his native tongue, but took two freakin’ years of a foreign language.  He’s never taken a study hall and came into his senior year two credits short of graduation requirements.  This means he’ll graduate with twelve more credits than necessary.  And here we thought he was slacking off.

My guess is that somewhere along the line, you, as a writer, suspect you’ve slacked off as well.  You didn’t necessarily graduate with an English degree, much less receive an MFA in creative writing.  I know I didn’t.  In fact, I’ve had no formal training in the way of writing what-so-ever.  Not past English one-oh-whatever in college.

Sure I’ve bought a few books on style and plot and character development, but if I’m absolutely honest, I’ve never read them past the first few pages.  I’ve attended a handful of conferences, paid for a few professional critiques at said conferences, read blogs on the industry, read writer’s markets, read the Institute of Children’s Lit newsletter for a dozen years, joined writing communities and critique groups, swapped ideas with fellow scribes, written a dozen book manuscripts, published in the adult market, chatted with industry insiders, practiced, honed, edited and penned some more.

In short, I’m not as woefully under-prepared as I first appear.  And I bet you’re not either.

You see, writing preparation is a cumulative process.  It’s the culmination of small things–taking French instead of study hall–that prepares us for our futures.  It’s opening our world to the possibility and not getting hung up on “the right way.”

Everyone’s path is different, and that’s okay.  Some of us dig into the intensity of formal training, while others of us slog through trial and error and sheer persistence.  No particular way is the right way.  And no particular way is the predictor of success in the industry.

You’re here, reading a writing blog.  This means you’re serious enough to gather more info.  You’ve decided to be an inventor of words, and that is always the first step in success.

So what’s your story?  When did you become aware of your passion for writing and how have you nurtured this dream?  Have you received formal training or did you/are you cobbling together your own writing education through life experiences?  Do you wish you had done something differently? 

Curious minds want to know.

8 responses to “Are you prepared for writing?

  1. Like your son, I received my calling between 7 and 8 years of age and I’ve struggled with it ever since. ;D It’s good to be reminded that there’s not a right way because sometimes, you wonder. There are high school students out there who get agents their first time out and I’m close to twenty years past the point at which I’d assumed I’d have my first novel published. Oh, the naivete. Perhaps the most important lesson I (obviously) have yet to learn is from John Donne: “Comparisons are odious.” I will one-up him on that and say that they’re also all but useless. Good luck to your son! I have a nephew who’s studying to be a lego engineer. 🙂

    • A lego engineer? As in designing legos? Because I just may have to go back to school if that’s the case.

      Thanks for the reminder that we need to focus on ourselves and not on others’ successes. That is when we become bitter and frustrated. It’s also when our writing fails. I tend to think that no matter how much I dreamed of writing in the past, I wasn’t truly ready to write successfully on a personal level until now. Four years ago, the thought of telling anyone I was a writer terrified me. Now I say it all the time. With pride.

      Partially, this keeps me motivated. By opening my big mouth and admitting my dreams out loud, I have more reason to persevere.

      Hugs and thanks for sharing!

  2. I loved reading and learned to read before I started school. When I was about eight, I started my “scribbles,” illustrated by magazine cut-outs.

    In high school, English was my favorite subject and I always thought I would major in English in college.

    But I was bored by the courses…and switched to a psychology major. My path then took me into the social work field where I spent more than three decades. My most creative experiences were case notes and reports to the juvenile court. Oh, yes, my reports were great! LOL

    I kept journals…and I always wanted to write. When I had cobbled together enough life experiences (and just before I retired), I began.

    • LOL! I’ve written my fair share of court reports as a guardian ad litem. Loved it. Yet it wasn’t quite fiction. So glad you kept journals all those years. You should have enough novel fodder to thoroughly enjoy your retirement!

      Best luck and thanks for sharing your educational journey!

  3. I like to think that I majored in English at College for a reason. Now if I never get published, that would be a bummer, but is it a waste, no. Because I still was the first in my family to graduate college in a degree that I wanted. Now could I have gone for something more practical, sure, but I didn’t have the math skills for it, nor the desire to learn about stuff that I wouldn’t be interested in.

    I took the path that interested me most and being a writer, even if I make no money at it, is what it is. I enjoy it, I would love to make it a career, yet if I don’t then I will still feel it was the right choice.

    I didn’t learn everything from college, and have done my fair share of learning over the past years of writing. I think that is part of the fun with writing, you can always learn something new.

    • Hey, John. Thanks for weighing in on this. No wonder you give such excellent critiques! Your English professors taught you well. I think we all hope to turn our educations and experiences into a career. I’m in your corner, for sure!


  4. Wow, good for your son, being all on top of getting what he wants. I am impressed!

    I was an English major in college, but I don’t feel like it prepared me for writing the way life has. It CERTAINLY didn’t help me with PLOTTING, which for me is definitely the hardest part of the novel writing process! It’s so true, there are as many ways to become a writer as there are writers, and no one formula for successful writing.

    • Michelle, I’m not sure he was on top of it or if we got lucky!

      I’m always impressed with the number of English majors. I loved reading and writing and never once gave a thought to majoring in English or any such relatives. But I think your example points out that while each path teaches certain things, our writing journeys might actually look more like a spider web of experiences.


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