One of the worst piece of advice I received from well-meaning family and friends is to not pursue writing because I probably wouldn’t end up on Forbes list of billionaires. I dutifully tucked that advice into my backpack as I wandered through college getting a degree that would be more meaningful (code: make more money). Before graduating, however, the professors told me that I would need a Masters and a Ph.D. if I really wanted to obtain more meaningful employment. By then, I had lost interest in my intended field of study, psychology, graduated and worked at a department store.
“Didn’t you go to college?” well-meaning family and friends would ask as I rung them up at the register.
“Yeah. That’ll be two-hundred dollars, please. Do you have a Prange’s credit card? You can get one now instantly.”
From there, I went to work at the local hospital managing the Lifeline department while trying to play secretary for some not-so-appreciative social workers. I did have a bit of a chip on my shoulder because I too had a college degree, but it wasn’t in social work. So, I wasn’t making a lot of money (or getting any respect) with my college degree…
While working at the hospital, the nudge to get back into writing pushed harder. I attended a writing seminar, wrote for a Catholic Youth magazine, and started writing for a small local newspaper. I had also taken a sit-com writing class with Jerry Rannow (http://www.jrannow.com/), in which the lessons he taught I tucked away to be used at a later time.
At this point in the game, I decided I needed professional help. I signed up for graduate school. I was also offered an internship out in the D.C. area. I was the oldest intern out there, but that experience changed me from being a writer wannabe to being a writer.
“I’m a writer,” I would answer people. (Not on The New York Times best sellers’ list yet, but I’m a writer).
From graduate school, I married and had my first child, Elizabeth. I thought I’d try some freelancing, but the phone interview bombed. Not between the editor and me, but between Elizabeth and the vegetation. As I chatted with the editor, two-year-old Elizabeth decided to knock over my potted plants.
“I gotta go!” I exclaimed. “I’m not sure this will work for me at this point. Thank you!”
As our family grew, I tried sending out various manuscripts and proposals, but in Carol’s law of averages, rejection won out.
After receiving once again another rejection, I was standing in my bedroom shouting to God, “Okay, am I really supposed to be a writer, or are you messing with me?” Then I asked for the intercession of Venerable Fulton Sheen. “Could you ask God if I’m supposed to write?”
About a week later, toddler Genevieve staggered into the dining room with a cup of milk.
“No, Genevieve. Give that to Mommy,” I said.
Genevieve flung the cup, spilling milk everywhere. On my knees I was mopping up the sodden bookshelf when I pulled out Fulton Sheen’s book, Life is Worth Living. I was still on my knees when I opened it to a passage that read:
Let it never be said again that it is difficult to write a book. It is now proven that if a person talks only half an hour a week for twenty-six weeks, he already has enough material for a book. That is how this book was written (Life is Worth Living, Fulton J. Sheen, from the Preface, page 13. http://www.amazon.com/Life-Worth-Living-Fulton-Sheen/dp/0898706114).
Half hour a week. That was my answer. I started writing anything as long as I wrote for a half hour each week. On some Saturday nights at 11:30, I’d be in bed with a notebook writing stupid stuff, but I was writing! From there I freelanced for various newspapers, wrote and published a book, and wrote screenplays and a sitcom (thank you Jerry Rannow). I’m still freelancing, writing books and screenplays, and have taken up writing plays for children. I also started a writer’s group.
Will you see my name on Forbes’ list? It’s unlikely, but success shouldn’t be measured by a bulging bank account. True, you have to pay the bills, but are you doing what your heart tells you, or are you doing something others tell you to do? I ended up writing anyways. I also regret the time I wasted.
Out of the Dung-Heap is my writing journey. As the blog progresses, you’ll learn why I chose this title. More importantly, however, I hope the stories will inspire you to pursue your dream, work hard, and persevere. Thanks for reading. Now start writing!