I’ve always been a writer. From my first romance novel co-authored in fourth grade with my classmates (starring Al B. Sure), I knew it. My favorite place was the Ferguson Public Library where I read Shakespeare for fun. Later (before I knew it was a crime), I wrote papers for classmates. Friends and co-workers marveled that I could do in 5 minutes what took them days. Yet, secretly, I never believed it was anything special. “Why can’t I dance?” I wondered, “or sing...that would be great!”
So, bending under the pressure to do something meaningful with my life, I tried to go to medical school - rather, I tried to be pre-med and didn’t make it past biochemistry. I had no passion for covalent bonding (is that even a thing) and spent most of my time in class reading novels from my literature class and wondering what would happen if I died without enjoying my twenties. My brother (who is a doctor) suggested that I try being a bail bondsman instead. He has so much confidence in me.
His wife, who's a journalist, inspired me much more and I tried my hand at two whole journalism classes; which I loved. I bailed out only when I realized that it would take too much time to graduate after changing my major for the millionth time (I was eager to join the love of my life in Atlanta, so my eyes were fixed on graduation). Oh, I was a bright girl!
I partied my way through grad school and finally buckled down to pursue success. Where? The place where writers with low self-esteem go to find themselves - law school! Then, the music stopped. Law school was unbearable. I had never worked so hard in all of my life (except when I was trying to convince my friends to stop studying and go out to dinner already). Good thing I gave up quitting in college or I would have been out of there! I was confused 94% of every day but managed to write myself onto a journal. For those who don’t know - these are legal magazines written by law students basically for other law school students, professors, and legal scholars. In order to be accepted, you must audition - you guessed it - in writing. Success, at last! And I loved it - even the grueling hours learning to edit every article by hand. But instead of realizing that the only thing I wanted to do was write, what did I do? Accept a job at a law firm! Did I mention how bright I am? Not very, obviously.
But I'm not the only one. How many of us spend our lives doing things we hate just because they make sense. Do we fail to pursue our passions because we fear poverty or because we fear what people think? Or are we just lazy? After I graduated from law school, my mother-in-law waged exactly this critique at me. "You've just never really worked hard," she said. I was furious, but it was so true.
Writing had always been easy, so when it became difficult, it felt like someone was beating me with a red, hot poker. "What are you talking about?" I demanded of my theory of law professor. "What do apothecaries and selling organs have to do with anything?" I didn't get an "A" in that class, needless to say. I'm sure he wanted to say, "Think, you imbecile!" Years later, the lightbulb came on.
As a writer, a scholar or a thinker you must answer hard questions. You must be able to articulate the inner thoughts of your readers, answer their prayers, and calm their fears. I'm sure some people may want to sell their organs and even think it's a good way to pay off their law school loans, but is there a scenario where the law knows better than you and can forsee a day 2o years down the road when you'll want that other kidney (or ovary)?
So the moral of the story is this - challenge yourself to live, speak, and write authentically. If you love to write, work hard at it and don't fear the judgement of others (or the poverty that often accompanies the early days of writing). Write your truth, and when you have mastered that, the truth of the human experience will pour out of you. And that, my friends, is how your writing will grow into something that simultaneously captures readers and sets them free (and makes you money).
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