By CM Strawn 8/10/2021
What to do with my time
Ok. I’m retired. Now what do I do? Sit around watching my morning coffee get cold or take long strolls to break the monotony of daily inactivity? I’m accustomed to putting in a forty-hour work week. Counting the minutes until my exit is less than appealing. What I need is a career change.
Just because I’m no longer gainfully employed doesn’t negate my potential for productivity. And the benefits of making myself useful will immunize me against the corrosive effects of lethargy. So, what is there to do other than yard work and honey-dos?
Following my passion
Writing has always enthralled me. Penning words for public consumption gives me a sense of accomplishment that translates into a purpose in life.
Enthralled may be an antiseptic word. Even passion fails to capture the intensity that I feel for writing.
An irresistible call from the center of my being. A fire that ignites my mind into a frenzy of activity. Feelings and emotions connected to characters conceived in an imaginary world who lead lives independent of my own. The compelling drive to tell their story and give voice to their existence.
This is just a fragment of what it means for me to write.
Learning how to write
I have written quite a lot during my working life. Reports, training materials, proposals, explanations, and things related to professional activities I produced adequately. But this type of writing did little to satisfy the intense desire to release the goings on inside my head.
A few times I attempted to create a facsimile of the shadows in my mind. These attempts resulted in less than acceptable results.
I discovered that I had a moderate ability to express myself cogently on paper, or computer screen. If I were going to produce a quality of prose necessary to satisfy my own expectations and those of a reading public, education would be essential.
Attending college classes held no appeal for me. Nor did joining a writer’s group. Independent learning has always worked best for me, so I was on my own.
Fortunately, resources for beginning writers are in abundance in both print and online. There is no shortage of educational material for the independent learner, and I was able to create my own curriculum to improve my writing skills.
Getting good enough to market myself
The key to success in any endeavor is practice. It is the same, if not more so with writing. The more it is done the better it gets.
Reading is an important part of writing. Evaluating how successful writers apply their craft then employing some of these techniques helped enrich my own skills.
To give myself a platform and a purpose to expose myself in prose to the public (I like the excessive use of ‘p’) I created a blog. This gave me the opportunity to explore my interests, skills and strengths, and to get an idea of how much appeal there was for what I wrote in the public arena.
A profound discovery that I made is that learning is an ongoing endeavor in the writing craft. There are always improvements to be made and new skills to learn and apply.
How much education is enough
There is a point beyond which education becomes avoidance. When I have advanced to the point where my writing is not horrible, I must begin marketing myself.
Offering my writing as a service to the public is a lot like taking that first plunge off the high dive. The first impression is that it is a long way down and fear creates false expectations.
But the exhilarating experiencing after taking the first step leads to an insatiable desire for more. This is how I view entering the commercial market in both freelance and fiction writing.
Taking the plunge
What if no one wants to hire me? What if no one wants to read my book? What if …? There is no end to the excuses that I create to avoid jumping into the deep end of the freelance writing pool.
Hesitation leads to procrastination. It is comfortable to remain in the background where there is no risk. There is no threat of failure where there is no exposure.
Sure, there are a lot of writers more talented than I am. But there were also a lot of other professionals more talented than I was, but I still made a decent living and I continued to improve.
The fear of failure is a deadly poison that kills aspiration. The antidote to fear is courage. Courage is not the absence of fear but acting in spite of it. My only option is forward movement into the uncertain future of published prose.