“Two moments that define a writer’s life are the moment you realize you were born to write and the moment you realize how hard it will be.” – Jeff Groin
My first moment hit when I was halfway through writing Chasing Rainbows. I realized I didn’t know what I was doing and that I needed to learn. I searched for resources to help myself and found a few writing and journalism courses available at Tafe.
Hesitant but determined, I called the school to find out more. There are a few different courses and I had no idea where to begin. The representative advised me to start with the “Professional Writing and Editing” course. I told him I had never written anything besides my journal since I was 14. In those first few years, I wrote in French. I did basic English at school for six years and I found out it did not help me when I went for my first job interview in London. I couldn’t understand a word of what the manager said to me, albeit being top of my English class.
Although I have been blogging for many years, I had no intention of writing a magnum opus and most of the time I used a ghost writer.
I was lazy and relying on a ghost writer was an easy way out. My main intention was, blog to make money. Topic-wise, I had many ideas. However, I found it difficult to articulate my ideas into words.
I enjoyed researching for an article although I was struggling to put everything together. I wrote down my ideas and outlines and gave my incoherent thoughts to a ghost writer. I used a few until I settled for one whom I knew was going to be in it for the long term. She is a skilled writer and after a few years of working together, she got to know me better. It became easier for her to understand me. But I could do a lot better. It was a matter of figuring the “hows” and the “whys” or maybe all I needed was the motivation to write something great.
My first study period concentrated around technical writing but what I wanted to do was creative writing. I hated it. Nonetheless, I still felt I was learning something new even though it was not what I was quite expecting. Then I got an assessment that I completely misunderstood. As a result, I became frustrated that I gave up. I finished Chasing Rainbows instead and decided to self-publish.
I still wanted to learn. I knew I had to and giving up was not an option. Besides, I was paying for that course. I didn’t want it to be like another thing I started but not completed. Many years ago, I wasted $5000 to study to become a counsellor. I paid for the whole course but I abandoned it half-way.
I went back to my studies, determined to pass this assessment. I passed and that was good enough for me. What came after that study period was interesting and I started to enjoy it. I began discussing my assessments with another student in my class and that helped me tremendously. Every time something was unclear, I consulted him instead of working on my own like I had been doing. Also, two of my best friends are brilliant writers so I am learning a lot from them as well, by seeking their counsel.
The publishing process of a book is complex. I am glad I went through a publishing company because it is a job in itself and one I don’t have time to learn about. But I took that process for granted. I left my book to professionals. I felt safe – I relied on the publisher and editors to make everything better. I thought they would wave their magic wand and ta da, my book would be perfect. Big mistake. It hit me when the final proof came through.
That’s also when the second moment hit me: how hard it will be – writing is difficult.
When I read through the final proof, I realized how I had grown as a writer. I am not Stephen King nor I will ever be but I have improved. Even my study buddy noticed it and coming from him, it was a huge compliment for me. I get no support from my family who thinks I am a loser and loner, locked in my room playing video games all day. Getting feedback from the people who are making the effort to read what I write feels great.
Now I’m thinking I should have waited for my course to be over to publish my book. Reading the final proof, I can see now how I could have written better. I could see my incoherent thoughts and other nagging details. After two revisions, I still want to rewrite almost everything. I was also surprised the editors did not pick on it a bit more. But then again, they are paid to do a job. So I guess as long as there were no grammar errors and the sentences made sense, maybe that’s enough. I am not sure.
From my studies and the publishing process, I have learned a lot and I am confident I will write a better book next time. Practice makes perfect anyway. I have decided to go to University to do a Bachelor in Creative Writing because I want to learn more. I am also tempted to learn about journalism. Not because I want to be a journalist but rather, I find journalism interesting.
My daughter was not impressed and she voiced her opinion – “It’s nice but those type of qualifications will not get you a job.” I understand that but studying is not easy for me. I am a school dropout. I quit school before my final exams at 17. I hated school. I am not going back to learn how to run a business. I want to take the next three years to learn something I enjoy and that is to write.
If I had said to my parents back then that I wanted to be an author, they would have laughed and my mother would have slapped me. They would have thought the same as my daughter – this is not a marketable skill.
This is what I love doing so I will learn how to do it right and I will write until I can no longer write.