The Day I Became a Writer

If you hang around writers long enough, you start to pick up on some of the milestone moments that happen on their journey. Things like finishing your first novel, the first time you wrote something that got published, or the first time you get that daunting edit letter from a critique partner and cry into your morning coffee (or evening wine). They’re milestones every writer goes through, and the person that comes out on the other side of those milestones is stronger, smarter, and a teensy bit more aware of who they really are underneath all the smiles and ink stains.

But there’s another milestone that’s more personal to each writer. It’s when you’re working on a project and it suddenly dawns on you: oh damn, I am a writer. Then you ask yourself: when did this happen?

When I was a child, I hated writing. Wait, let me rephrase that: I hated grammar. A lot. Part of this was I’m such a math nerd that grammar was just too artsy for a young kid. If it doesn’t fit into a formula and give me answers, where’s the fun, right? But when I fell asleep at night, my mind came alive with vivid dreamscapes, stories, and fantasy worlds I was certain had to be out there somewhere in the a universe.

Fast forward many years and somehow I got myself cornered into admin jobs. Answer phones, write things on a spreadsheet, glare at the front desk lady for always disappearing from her desk and forwarding switchboard calls to me. Always. That’s right… I’m still glaring at you. Enough was enough. Those vivid dreams were starting to cloud, I didn’t like my job (any job really because my skills but me back in the same chair again and again). I didn’t like the narrow, boring road my life was heading down, straight toward repetition alley. So, I changed it.

I quit my job and took out student loans to go back to school. More grammar, what was I thinking? My goal was to be a fifth-grade teacher. That lasted one semester. I love kids, but not kid-stuff. I needed dark and gritty, twisty and terrifying. No, I needed to get back into those fantasy lands I had loved my whole life. I started learning fantasy languages, world-building, and discovered RPG writing (similar to fan-fiction). Once I found my place again, I started digging my heels in and getting dirty (especially with the world-building).

But, I still needed a way to pay the bills. Along my journey I started toying with creating my own RPG forums, learning the software, building web pages, and landed my first dev job: building a series of pages for a small community college. They were terrible… awful. Horrendous even. Seriously, think of the worst web page you’ve seen… mine was probably worse.

Then something crazy happened. I’d graduated and had a whole new set of knowledge, but my degree didn’t have a focus. I loved building websites, so I started looking for developer jobs. After stripping down my resume of all past jobs, I created one that only showed my degree, community outreach hours, and my two college jobs (both technical). I got called in for an interview and asked to walk through lines of code, and two days later scored a developer job at an AMAZING recipe company. To this day, I’m not sure how that happened.

After being late my first day on the job, I spent three years with this company and took my education to a whole new level. I became a true developer, learned copy editing, marketing, design, and even got to drink on the job a few times. For science… erm, recipe/drink pairing. No, science. It sounds cooler.

Three years passed, two buyouts, and I felt myself circling back toward writing. I was RPGing a lot in my spare time, to the point where I had a little word doc behind my dev code with character replies. The company got bought out twice, and what was once a beautiful experience started to have some pitfalls. Ever open a web page and become so assaulted by advertisements that you can’t get to the content? Yep, that’s the direction they wanted to go.

Anywho, we parted ways, and I decided to strike out on my own for awhile. I wanted to be home with my daughter more, and I needed room to grow again. I fell (literally) into a huge project with a tiny marketing company that (nine years later) is pioneering advertisement. The project started as a website, and I was responsible for all the front-end code. In its glory days, the site was seen by millions, and I got to code the translated content into nine other languages. NINE! One week I’d be working in Danish, the next Japanese. It was crazy, and pushed me harder than I could have imagined.

The most beautiful part: I did it all from my couch, with occasional visits to the office. And, between projects I got to work on my stories, design work, and world-building.

Today, I still help moderate an RPG writing site, I’ve written five novels (several more are in some various state of progress), I’ve overhauled two of those novels, coded dozens of websites and hundreds (if not thousands) of pages, designed and created several book covers (print and ebook), created two partial fantasy languages, copy-edited… oh, too much, and I’m still growing and learning.

But back to my point. Last night I was helping two friends in Australia and California with a list of skills. Somewhere in the middle of striking out words and offering recommendations for a better way to write these list words, I realized I became a writer. I don’t know where it officially happened, but the epiphany wormed its way into my head and shed light in a dark space, revealing this single truth. This is my milestone, a personal one that I will carry with me as I move forward into new spaces.

For every writer it’s different, but the epiphany will happen, or maybe it already did. Look at your journey in its entirety, and all the little things that feed into it. Those dreams I mentioned in the beginning? From one of them I saw a creature that doesn’t exist on Earth. It exists on Sandaris, which is where I’ve given it a home. After all, who knew spiders could have feathers, or immobilize their prey without the use of their fangs.

Good luck to all the writers out there on the eve of their next journey. May your path take you into new and exciting spaces, and may the comrades on your journey be ever by your side to celebrate your triumphs and ease your burdens.

Cheers to all! 🙂


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