Because I don’t like being told what to do!
When I started to inquire about the publishing world and what it takes to get published some years ago, I received a lot of directive responses to my questions. I asked english professors, and aspiring writers who had been at it a good while, and even writers who had been successfully published, and they all had this very bitter, very authoritative tone.
The most discouraging thing about these conversations was what they told me I had to have already done by my age. Apparently if you want to be a successful writer you have to start ‘voraciously’ reading as a small child and actively writing before puberty. I rarely ever finished books assigned in english classes while growing up and almost never read independently. The only books I ever picked up and read on my own as a child were the Calvin and Hobbes comics.
I didn’t begin taking an interest in reading until I got to college. My English 102 teacher assigned us Octavia Butler’s novel Dawn. I couldn’t put it down. When I finished I immediately read the second book. Those books encouraged me to pick up the Earth’s Children series. But it wasn’t until after I graduated and moved to Puerto Rico for a year that I began to actively read.
I was very poor in Puerto Rico and when I wasn’t working there wasn’t much else to do. The office had a collection of books and I picked up Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. I eventually moved on to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and did nothing but read in my spare time.
There I was in my early twenties, reading ‘voraciously’ (I don’t care for this overused word) and I noticed the writing in my emails was getting better. I started writing to my friends and family about the adventures I had in Puerto Rico and they all loved it. That’s when I caught the bug.
When I finally began my publishing inquisition, I immediately developed an immune response to people telling me what to do. One writer told me that I have to lock myself in a room every day and force myself to write, even if it’s garbage. Yes, as a writer you have to figure out your process and practice your craft, but that’s for the individual to figure out on their own. His strategy did not work for my personality.
What I figured out is that I benefitted way more from getting a BA degree in anthropology and spending several years living a nomadic and adventurous life than getting an english degree and spending several years locked inside a room.
Looking back, I see that all that advice was outdated and applied to a landscape that is quickly evolving. There is a lot of space opening up in the industry for individuals to find their own way into publishing. It’s a bit chaotic and there is a lot to learn, but learning new skills is a fetish of mine, so I’m enjoying the process of figuring things out.