Writers Keep on Writing
Writers who got their start as journalists, working for newspapers and magazines, are a little different from those who started right off writing books. I know. I'm one of them.
Keep in mind that I wrote this column while raising five kids, the youngest a set of twins age three. So I don't want to hear any of you moms with one baby whining out there. Okay, you can whine, but you also have to write. Every day, if you truly are a writer.
While the twins napped, I wrote my column on spiral notebooks - I still have a few of them - then in the evening I typed them up on my trusty Smith Corona, which had replaced my 1942 Royal manual. The next day, I loaded all the kids into the van and delivered the column to the newspaper.
No. I am not older than dirt, but almost. But this was before home computers and way before the convenience of emailing files back and forth. I didn't keep my Smith Corona, but I have kept the Royal typewriter. It sits in a place of honor in my office.
That first gig led to writing feature stories and reviews for The Plano Star Courier, and I also wrote a few articles for The Dallas Times Herald. Soon after, I started writing another regular human interest column for The Texas Catholic newspaper in Dallas, which opened up another avenue for writing articles and profile pieces.
When I started writing articles and short stories for more regional and national magazines, my husband decided that it was time I had a computer. He worked in the computer field, so he knew about home computers, and he had read about one called a Kaypro. There was even a dealer in the area, so we went over and bought one. My kids were most distressed when I told them they could not play games on it. The computer was just for my work, and I was worried that they would do something to mess it up and I would be stuck using the typewriter again. Which was kind of funny since I messed it up plenty of times, and my kids are part of that first wave of a tech-savvy generation.
They still help me when I mess up.
|This is what my computer looked like.|
The best part of having the home computer was this humongous printer that connected to it, so I typed on the computer, made changes and fixed typos and sent the document to the printer. Not having to try to fix typos with White Out or the other tools we had back in the dark ages, was a godsend. The printing process was fairly quick and easy when it came to a one or two page column, or an article of a few pages, but printing an entire book manuscript was a day-long affair. The printer was very, very slow. Still, it beat typing 400 pages.
So what does this all have to do with deadlines? Plenty. I had lots of them over those years of raising kids and trying to keep some semblance of order in the house. I learned to write quickly, in small increments of time, which does work well for nonfiction. I think it is harder to do that with fiction and stay immersed in a story, but it can still be done. I managed to write a couple of books in that time period, and I currently write around some health issues that have pushed me to find creative ways to keep working.
During those years of freelancing, I also learned the importance of being disciplined about the writing and how to forge ahead in the face of rejection. Back then, the rejection slips came in these self-addressed envelopes we had to include with submissions. I can remember walking to the mailbox with anticipation that the SASE would contain an acceptance only to be disappointed more often than not. But after time, I learned to shake the disappointment off, and send that story out again. My first short story to appear in Lady's Circle magazine was accepted after the piece had been rejected twenty other times.
Which leads me to the final lesson I learned as a freelance journalist - perseverance. To me, that is the most important part of any success story.
So what is the most important part of your success story? What lessons have you learned through your years of writing? Do share.
|Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent mystery, Doubletake, was named the 2015 Best Mystery by the Texas Association of Authors. She has a number of other books published, including the critically-acclaimed Season Series that debuted with Open Season. Information about her books and her editing rates is available on her website. When not writing, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas.|