Second in a series. Read part one.
No one really expected me to have a job. My advisors in high school didn’t like my career choice. I wanted to pursue being a writer. I wasn’t going to college. No, thank you, I’d had quite enough of school.
“But do you know how many writers don’t get published? You could do a lot more with a degree. You would be an amazing psychologist. And you love psychology!”
The only reason for this last comment was that I had taken a high school psychology course to make up extra credits. I didn’t have a lot of options; not a lot of the classes that were offered were actually accessible. So I took psychology, and yes, I did well.
I can say without a doubt that I would not have liked being a therapist. I would have needed my own therapist if I were one. And the amount of schooling, number of appointments, and hectic pace wouldn’t have allowed me to focus on my own health, which would be the death of me.
“But you’re going to become a hermit if you don’t go to college and make yourself some friends.”
This always seemed to be their biggest concern.
Firstly, I like being a hermit. I get to sit in my pajamas all day if I want to and I don’t get sick nearly as often as I used to. Secondly, by this point in school, I was two months away from graduation. I knew that I wanted to be an author.
I knew what I wanted.
My mom was fine with my writing obsession. So fine, in fact, that one day she smuggled me out of school under the pretense that I had a stomachache to take me to the library for an author event. She did this so that I could ask “how to be an author” questions.
I made many jokes about the fact that I was living like I was retired right after high school: “I’m going to do nothing! I’m going to sleep until 11 a.m. And I’m going to write a book. But very slowly … because I’ve got nothing but time.”
Doing nothing, though, gets really boring, really fast. I never actually slept until 11 because that causes migraines. I did, however, become a coffee drinker. Now I can’t survive without it.
Being lazy lasted about four months after graduation. I wrote a book of poetry in those four months, but it was never published because it’s very angsty. Yikes! Other than that, I didn’t do a lot during those four months.
Then I realized that at that pace, I would do nothing with myself. I entered writing contests. Many people say that if there’s a fee, it’s a scam, but believe me, there are some very reputable awards and contests that have a fee. That’s difficult, because I’m a writer and I’m broke.
Like everyone when they’re starting off, I had no idea what I was doing.
I thought that things came easy.
So, that very angsty poetry collection? I tried sending it directly to a publisher — a publisher that doesn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. That meant I needed to get an agent or learn more about publishing.
People will also tell you never to work for free. I am here to tell you that when you are starting off, you often must work for free. It’s unfair, but that’s how it goes.
I worked for free. The same author I skipped school to see managed to get me my first article. That’s where things started for me. From there, I co-authored a short story — for free. It was meant as an experiment, and it was probably the craziest thing that I’ve done in my writing career, because I also had to edit it. Getting multiple authors to have a cohesive voice without stripping anyone of their unique writing styles is hard. But it’s something I would do again.
Then, I wrote articles for a magazine, voluntarily, for just under a year.
Now, I am a columnist for SMA News Today.
I published my first book in January.
I recently finished writing the first draft of a fantasy novel. I’ve been working on it for a year and a half. So far, it looks to be about 47,000 words. I need to add to it quite a bit, but it’s coming together. It has good bone structure.
I’m also an editor, helping other authors, because I know it’s hard.
I’ve found my communities: both in SMA and in writing.
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.