On Becoming a Writer

{via pinterest from kimberlymy.tumblr.com}

I love hearing about the journey that prompted other writers to write. Some writers believe they were born with it-a passion for writing that began as soon as they learned how to write. For others, writing came later in life. Something spurred them to get words down on paper and their career took off from then. My guest blogger this week is author Jessica McCann. She’s another writer that I’ve admired from afar and it brings me great pleasure to share where her writing story began. It’s a good one!

by: guest blogger

One Saturday morning, not long ago, I sat at the kitchen table with my HP Mini, fingers flying at the keyboard. A cup of creamy coffee and a scribbled-up notepad sat to my right, a paperback novel to my left.

“Whatcha working on?” my teenage daughter asked on her way to the fridge.

“I’m writing a review for this book I just read.”

My daughter stopped and swiveled around, a look of bewilderment on her lovely face. “Voluntarily?”

“Yep!” I said with a giggle and a nod, before taking a sip of my coffee and returning to the keys.

She knows I write for a living. All my family and friends know that. “Jessica is a freelance writer.” Yet, like most people, my daughter has only a vague comprehension of what that means. They have read only a tiny fraction of all that I have written. They believe I’m good at it and that people routinely pay me to do it. They do not understand why I love it or why I do it even when I‘m not being paid.

That’s OK. For a long time, I didn’t fully understand it either.

Throughout school, I was the kid whose heart raced with delight when the teacher announced a book report or persuasive essay, while my classmates moaned and broke out in a collective cold sweat. I didn’t necessarily dream of being “a writer,” nor did I believe I could earn a living doing it. It was just something I enjoyed. I loved putting words to paper, playing with them, moving this one here and that one there, replacing yet another with something better — like assembling a black and white jigsaw puzzle (for more about my jigsaw approach to writing, here’s another post you might enjoy).

A strange twist of fate my senior year of high school landed me in newspaper class. I needed an elective and figured it would be an easy A to boost my grade point average. It was there I stumbled upon the idea that I might be able to earn a living as a writer. (Cue the chorus and bright light from above.) That year, I landed my first freelance gig at the age of 17, writing for a hospital newsletter. I was hooked. During my 20s, though, I worried about the reality of freelancing full-time and felt compelled to seek out a “real” job. That led to salaried positions as a communications coordinator, a magazine editor and a book editor. All good jobs. But the flexibility, variety and income potential of freelancing beckoned me constantly.

After the birth of my second child, I quit my editing job to freelance full-time and I haven’t looked back since. I threw myself into building my business and my portfolio. And success smiled upon me.

Much as I enjoy writing for a living, maintaining a freelance business is grueling work that often includes a whole lot of not writing. About the time I hit my five-year anniversary of full-time freelancing, I began to question whether I was still “a writer” or simply an entrepreneur who could successfully string together words.

I swore that I would never let freelancing become my own version of the 9-to-5 grind, nor let the business of writing dampen my joy of writing.

That’s when I started dabbling with fiction, as a way to breathe new life into my work and flex my creativity in a new way. Once I realized how much I loved writing fiction, I found myself scheming for ways to work more of it into my day-to-day writing life. (And I keep scheming, especially now that I know I can actually make money writing fiction. Check out my debut historical novel, All Different Kinds of Free.)

I’m fortunate to have figured out how to be “a writer” on so many levels. Some days I’m penning an annual report for a corporate client. Other days I’m crafting scenes for my next novel. And on the occasional Saturday morning, I may even write a book review “voluntarily,” simply because I loved the book. Deep down, I guess I’ll always be that kid whose heart races with delight at putting words on the page.

 

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Jessica McCann, a professional freelance writer and novelist, lives with her family in Phoenix, Arizona. Her nonfiction work has been published in Business Week, The Writer and Phoenix magazines, among others. All Different Kinds of Free (Bell Bridge Books, April 2011) is her award-winning debut novel. She welcomes interaction with readers and writers at her website (http://www.jessicamccann.com) and on Twitter (@JMcCannWriter).

  • Jessica is so talented and I am so glad you have her on your blog today. If I could be half the writer she is, I will be extremely happy. Love, love, love her!

    And glad to find your blog as well!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Hallie! I agree. I’m a big fan of her as well.

  • Love you both right back! You comments made my day. Thanks!

  • I love this post, Jessica. Thank you for sharing some of your journey. We are all glad you stumbled upon Journalism class!

  • I love the daughter’s reaction to your writing a book report willingly! Of course, she doesn’t get paid for doing homework.

    This was an inspiring post, Jessica. I liked getting a bit closer look at your life as a writer before you wrote your beautiful novel.

  • Pay my kids to do their homework? Believe me, I’ve considered it! 😉 Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and comment, Patrick.

  • Thank you, Tess! Your support and kind words mean the world to me.

  • Anonymous

    Wow Jessica! You have a fan club here for sure. Thank you so much for sharing your story with all of us.

  • Melissa Crytzer Fry

    You continue to inspire and amaze me daily, Jessica. Interesting your comments about the 9-to-5 grind of freelance and “scheming for ways to work more fiction into my day-to-day writing life.” I do believe we are traveling in the same orbit…

    Wonderful article. And typical college-aged daughter response! Loved it.

  • Thanks, Melissa!

  • Yes, I’m definitely feeling the love. Thanks so much for welcoming me to your site!

  • I can just imagine the teenager being amazed at doing a book review voluntarily. And the idea of moving into fiction to improve non-fiction strikes a cord with me too. Thanks.

  • So happy you stopped by, Anne. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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  • Elizabeth Sinclair

    I smiled when I read this because I could have written the begining about being delighted with book reports or essays and never aspiring to be a writer. But, here I am. And loving every minute of it.

  • Anonymous

    Nice Elizabeth! =) Awesome that you’ve unexpectedly found your calling.

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