I've nailed the "amateur" part of the above equation for becoming a professional writer. If Mr. Bach is to be believed, all that's left for me now is to not quit. Of course many people don't realize how difficult the "not quitting" part can be. "Not quitting" isn't a passive activity. It won't happen naturally, or without effort. "Not quitting" means taking the time to practice and hone your skills, despite other obstacles and other obligations that life throws your way. "Not quitting" means having a drive and determination that most people don't have. Which is why most people aren't professional writers.
Let me take a step back. As you hopefully know already, or inferred from my oh-so-creative URL, I'm Austin. You can read more about me elsewhere on this site if you feel so inclined, so I won't waste space retelling that tale here. Instead I want to share a side of me that I haven't shared with many people in my life. After all, that side of me is the reason I decided to start this blog.
I'm referring to my passion for writing. I'll be the first to admit I didn't enjoy writing much in school. I didn't mind English class as a whole. After all, it provided me with an opportunity to delve into worlds unknown. Worlds in which rabbits talked, teenage boys created their own society, and limitless adventures lay just past the other side of a wardrobe. I read outside of school as well - Goosebumps, Animorphs, Harry Potter, the list goes on and on (and my parents have the boxes full of my childhood books in their basement to prove it).
Yet when I finished each book in school, filled with a strange mixture of delight at what I had read and sadness that the journey was over, I dreaded the writing that I knew was to follow. Writing in which we would analyze the stories we had finished reading. The hidden meanings interwoven in the text. The lessons we were supposed to have learned. As I got older it got worse. Essays stopped being a platform to share our own thoughts, and instead were filled with citations pointing to others' work that justified the stance we had chosen to take. And I hated it.
You see, I didn't want to be analyzing the stories that other authors had written. I wanted to be making my own stories, creating new worlds filled with people that only existed in my mind. I yearned for a creative outlet to express my imaginative thoughts, to capture the stories that played like a movie in my head, before they faded away into a distant memory.
Unfortunately school did not provide enough of this to satisfy my burning desire. So I found other outlets. I convinced my parents to let me take a creative writing course one summer. I joined online forums known as "play by post" RPGs. Communities full of people like myself who created a shared universe, each person taking turns to tell one part of a broader story through a character that they had created. I could only guess how many pages upon pages I wrote and shared online. Some stories I managed to save over the years. Others are still out there in the archives of the internet. Others still are gone for ever, lost as various sites I posted on stopped attracting a large enough audience for the owner to keep paying the maintenance fees needed to keep everything running smoothly.
Life went on, and I got busier. College afforded less free time for that sort of writing (although extracurriculars admittedly played just as much or more of a role in that as classes did), and graduate school afforded even less. Before I knew it I was in the real world, working a 9-to-5 job, attempting to squeeze in a workout before heading home to make dinner before it was already time to go to bed.
I barely had time to read, let alone write. Or so I thought. In retrospect, I wasn't making the time to read or write. I had let my passion fall by the wayside in exchange for extra nights out with friends, or nights in with Netflix.
Earlier this year, that changed when I joined my yoga studio's book club. The premise was simple enough, harkening back to a familiar pretense from middle school. Each month, our organizers would select a book for us to read. Once a month we'd get together to discuss the book, and then we were off to the next one. Though, admittedly, there wasn't as much wine involved in my middle school book club.
Three months in, my passion for reading has been reignited. Honestly, I think amidst the college textbooks and professional development books, I forgot how much fun it was to read for pleasure. And with that reignited passion came a renewed yearning to create something of my own.
But I know that I'm not ready. It's been far too long since I've written anything, and I'd need to re-hone my craft before attempting to delve deeper. And so I decided to add a blog to my newly created site. An outlet where I could share my thoughts with the world, but, more importantly, an outlet where I could get back into the practice of writing on a regular basis.
And maybe this time I won't quit.