Why I Decided to Become a Writer

Since I go to the Wesleyan Writers Conference on Thursday, I decided that, this week, I would answer a question that everyone has of someone pursuing a writing career: Why?

The simple answer is, because I love the English language and I love telling stories. I could add that this is all that I enjoy doing, but that’s a lie, and even to amend it by saying it’s the only thing I would do for money is not true, either. To say that it’s the thing I would enjoy doing the most for money is closer to the truth. The only problem with that answer is that, even if I weren’t paid for it, I would still write, and want to be published.

That answer lends itself more to the notion that people who wish to be writers must be egotistical to a degree. After all, how many people have the gumption to believe that other people want to hear what they have to say? And not only other people, but complete strangers of all ages, some of whom haven’t been born yet. That takes balls (or ovaries, I guess, if you’re a woman). It also takes an ego the size of Texas.

And yet, many writers are humble about their craft….to an extent. In my case, I’m learning what my limitations are, but I’m also learning what I’m good at, and if I didn’t think I was a good writer, or had the capacity to become one, I would keep a diary for my own pleasure, and nothing else. After all, why waste other people’s time in writing books that are so painful to read, labor pains seem like small pokes in comparison? My humility, therefore, is rooted in perspective. I realize that there was a guy called Shakespeare who lived once upon a time and wrote better than any of us ever will, and that there are great writers today (and more to come) who make all of us wannabe writers despair with their genius. On the other hand, I also realize there are writers published today (and in all ages) who should do us all a favor and never write another word as long as they live. With writers, humility also comes from the observance of two rules that can be applied to any profession: 1.) If you’re really that good, the work will speak for itself, and 2.) If you have to say how good you are, then you aren’t that good.

Another question one might have is, when did I decided to become a writer? The answer to that question is clearer than the previous one. I decided to become a writer during the summer between second and third grade. Since I was eight, that must have been in 1987. How strange to think that it happened the same year that my pet hamster died, indeed during the same season.

Here’s what happened: I went to the library, as I often did back then, to check out the maximum 10 books allowed on my library card [this limit was only for children; adults (over age 12?) could check out as many books as they wished]. At that point, I had read most of the more enjoyable books I could find in the children’s section (some twice), and wished that there were other stories to read. That’s when I realized that I could write those stories that no one else had written.

As I continue on my quest to be published and (vainly) to be recognized for my work, I try to hold on to the reason why I wanted to write in the first place. It wasn’t to win literary awards, become famous, or to have my books turned into movies. It was to write the kinds of stories that I wanted to read, but weren’t being written. In other words, I wanted to be a writer so that I could write stories for me.

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Wesleyan Writers Conference

Some years ago, I went to a class on how to get published. On the last day of class, the teacher (who also was a writer) gave us a brochure for the Wesleyan Writers Conference for that year. Depending on whether or not we opted to include meals or stay overnight on campus for the conference, the cost of attending ranged from $800 to over $1000.

I didn’t go.

Last year, I should have gone, though I had little time between when I returned home from Japan and when the applications were due. I also may not have been able to send in any work for a manuscript consultation, as I had no computer at that time, and no manuscript ready enough to be read by someone else. I could have used my dad’s computer, I suppose, but I didn’t.

This year, however, I decided to check out when the conference was being held. Well, I inquired a little late this time, too.

Since I couldn’t find the original brochure, I thought that the conference was either in July or late June. Turns out that it takes place in the middle of June, with most people applying for it before the end of May. I found out this information while looking it up yesterday.

So, I wrote an email to the woman in charge of the program, and she wrote me back, saying that I could apply to the program over the weekend, if I wished, by calling her home phone number. This was after I already had gone to the post office with the application filled out and the check written, only to find out that the last pickup had occurred a half-hour before I arrived.

Now, I didn’t apply for the five days that the program covers, since writing on those days would benefit me more than going to workshops on writing. Also, the main reason to sign up for the whole program was to have a manuscript consultation, and I had missed that deadline for sending one in. Luckily, there was another option: a one-day program that cost $150 and included two meals (but no manuscript consultation), starting at 9 am on June 18th (the last day of the program) and ending at 10 pm. Of course, I didn’t have to stay for the whole thing if I didn’t want to, but why not?

Since I already had the check written out, and since I thought that one or two days shouldn’t make much of a difference, I wrote back to the woman in charge of the conference and told her that I’d rather send my application out by mail, since I already had it prepared. Therefore, today I went to the main post office (different from the post office I went to yesterday) to drop off the letter so that it would go out in the morning tomorrow.

Only one problem: the post office got rid of morning pickup.

So, now my letter will languish in the drop box until 3pm tomorrow before traveling on its merry way to Middletown the following day (I hope). If registrations start filling up quickly for the conference, however, I advised the woman in charge of the conference to email me back, so that I might register by phone. All this work for something that I could have avoided, had I known that I had missed the collection time BEFORE I left my house yesterday afternoon, thereby precluding my filling out a check for it. And then, not having a check ready to be sent out, I could have registered over the phone, and known that I would be going to the one day conference.

Why? Why didn’t I just register over the phone and rip up the check? Then I wouldn’t have all this stress built up over whether or not a day or two might make a difference in whether I get to go. Well, quite simply, it’s because I’m stubborn. Also, since this woman needed me to provide my credit card number and the 3-digit number on the back of my card, I figured that she needed that info to bring into the school tomorrow in order to complete the transaction. If the post office still had early pickup, then mailing it would have taken only a few hours more.

Oh well. I suppose I worry too much about these things.

I’ll write more about this one-day conference once I know that I’m going. And, of course, there is a class being offering there on blogging.

Update: Just got an email. A spot will be reserved for me, so sounds like all my worrying is needless. 🙂