It was my kindergarten graduation, a time to celebrate my step forward in life, when the director came around with a microphone asking us “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The same replies would ring out: “I want to be a teacher!” “I want to be a doctor!” “I want to be a firefighter!” When I stepped up to the microphone, my family looking up at me proudly, I’ll never forget the falter in their smiles when I replied, “I want to be an author!” For years they entertained the idea thinking that it was just a phase and I would come to my senses about pursuing something more financially stable. Basically, they categorized me along with little Caleb who wanted to be a dinosaur. To them, my dream was unreachable, but what they didn’t know is that I didn’t decide to be a writer, I am a writer.
“I don’t remember deciding to become a writer. You decide to become a dentist or a postman. For me, writing is like being gay. You finally admit that this is who you are, you come out and hope that no one runs away.” — Mark Haddon
Much to their dismay my dream of becoming an author did not waver, and instead of going to law or medical school, I pursued a degree in English with a concentration in writing. I even committed a bigger sin by writing a few rough drafts of various books and going to writing conferences to further my dream. Now, it was getting serious. Of course there were those who supported me, but then there were those who had to ask, “Why do you want to be a writer?”
At first, I couldn’t come up with a reply. I’ve never given it much thought because it’s who I am. It’s not like people question why you have blue eyes or why you like the taste of cheese; you just do. After a while the questions intensified and I had to really give it some thought. I am the type of person who researches everything before committing, so I knew that being a writer comes with a price. It’s not as if there is a magical button you press after graduation that makes you an author. You actually have to work for it so people stop questioning your motives. So after years of questioning, I sat down and took my dream as seriously as I was making it out to be. I changed the question from, “Why do you want to be a writer?” to “How do you become a writer?”
Googling my future plans, I was amazed at how many people seemed to have all the answers. There were thousands of self-help books on becoming an author and articles proclaiming how easy it was. For a while there I thought it was just as simple as they made it out to be. So what did I do? I blew my paycheck on Amazon Prime and made a shelf in my library for the books that would make my dream come true. Every time my family would say I didn’t know what I was doing with my life, I could now take them to my shelf of fortune and rub it in their faces that “101 Ways to Be The Best Writer In America” would guide the way. I studied those books more than my textbooks. I used highlighters and sticky notes the proper way and not for just recreational purposes. Soon, I had my future all mapped out.
“I will write my way into another life.” — Ann Patchett
My dream was in sight and nothing was going to stop me now.
Only, something did.
Every writer has a secret they don’t want to tell you. Maybe their writing space is cluttered with gum wrappers and take out boxes, or maybe they have a bad habit of typing while eating Cheeto’s and now their keyboard keys go from white to orange. My secret? I don’t like to sit down and write. I don’t like to stand up and write either; in fact I just don’t like the whole writing process. There is something about staring at a blank document that is meant to be filled with meaningful words that sends my anxiety through the roof. It’s like waiting to give a speech in front of class, the build up is worse than the actual task.
After I get over that anxiety, I type a few sentences, maybe a few more, then decide it’s utter crap, delete the entire thing, and try to change my dream to something that requires no creativity what-so-ever. But the problem is, I always go back to that blank document like a bad habit. I can’t kick the feeling of wanting to write. Why? Because I am a writer. It is a disease that I can’t get rid of nor do I want to.
“If a story is in you, it must come out.” — William Faulkner.
The quote above has always been true to me. I can try as hard as I want to get rid of the stories and characters my mind has created, but it won’t happen unless I put it down on the document. So then it hit me. I could read a million books on how to become a writer but none of it matters unless I do one thing: Write. Regardless of the fact that one book says in order to be an author you must meet a certain requirement or that you can’t do something without the other, it doesn’t matter. I could sit there and think of my book all day long, but that isn’t what produces it. Writing does.
“Thinking about writing is not writing . . . writing is writing.” – John Dufresne
So, instead of making the same mistake I did by blowing your paycheck on hundreds of informative books with the same generic answer, I will tell you the ultimate secret to becoming an author for free: Just Write.
Nobody became a great author simply by thinking of a good book. They wrote a good book.
And now so shall you.
(Take that Kindergarten teacher)
Written by: Chelsey Dugger (senior at Middle Tennessee State University/advocate of MTSU Write and Cheetos)