On Becoming a Writer

I’m a fan of Emily Giffin’s writing, and reading some of her answers to questions she is frequently asked increased my appreciation for her.  I can relate to this in several ways:  I went to law school, though I always wanted to be a writer.  I felt I had to have a “real job” first.  I was afraid (read: guilted by my mother) to take the leap into writing full time due to the possibility of rejection and/or failure.

My questions to you readers:  did you always want to be a writer?  What’s stopping you now?  What obstacles are you facing?

Hope you enjoy the interview!  I found it motivating.


Emily Giffin – On Becoming a Writer

“Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? 

Yes. For as long as I can remember. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve reading books and writing my own stories. Perhaps because we moved around a lot, characters in books became my constant companions, and keeping a journal provided me comfort. In high school, I was a member of the creative writing club and editor-in-chief of our school newspaper—and although my interests became much more diverse, I was always the happiest when reading and writing.

Then what made you go to law school? 

I’m not sure exactly what happened during college, as I never lost my desire to become a writer. But looking back, I think I had the sense that I had to get a “real” job first—that I couldn’t graduate and promptly sit down to write a novel. I took a lot of history and political science classes—so law school became a logical next stop. If I’m completely honest, I also think I went to school because it felt safer—a more certain path to measurable success. I think it always feels riskier and scarier to go after something you really love and want because the rejection and failure hurts more.

Do you regret going to law school and becoming an attorney? 

Never. For one, I don’t think you can ever regret an education—even one that comes with a heavy loan burden. I learned so much—skills and knowledge that I still apply today in a very practical sense. I also feel that I gained real world experience. I learned about office politics and was forced to develop a thick skin while working at a large law firm. Most important, I’m not sure I would have moved to New York City without the safety of my law degree and job offer—and living there was certainly one of the most enriching experiences of my life. And finally, I made so many close friends at law school and my firm, relationships I wouldn’t trade for anything.

What made you decide to quit and go for your dream of writing?

Although I enjoyed law school, I loathed the actual practice of law—at least the big firm culture. And I discovered that misery can be quite motivating. So very early on, I devised a plan to pay off my law school loans and then write full-time. Meanwhile, I began writing a young adult novel in my free time (and sometimes while at work!). Four years later, my loans were paid off and my book was completed. I was able to land an agent, but over the next several months, I received a dozen rejection letters from publishers. I seriously contemplated giving up and keeping my nose to the legal grindstone, but instead, I quit my job, moved to London and decided to try again. It was then and there that I began writing Something Borrowed.”

(Q&A from http://www.emilygiffin.com/faq_onbecomingwriter.php)

Excerpt from “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”

“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair–the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”  ~Stephen King

Writer’s Block

I’m finding more and  more motivation to write, but less and less time to actually be productive.  How do people get this done?  Often, I don’t feel like it’s worth it to write for a half hour, if that’s all the time that I have, because I barely get into anything before time runs out.  I don’t have some complicated process, but I need a chance to refamiliarize myself with the characters and get back into the tone of the story before I move forward.

Does anyone else have this problem?   I’ve seen lots of other writers set word counts for themselves, or set a certain amount of time to glue themselves to their laptops.  But what do you do when writing isn’t your day job (but you want it to be)?

I was doing some reading on another writer’s site, one who is far more advanced in her writing career — she’s extremely successful in selling her books.  She mentioned how she didn’t quit her day job until the first book was in print, the second book was done, and she had a contract in place for her third.  Being more of a realist, and knowing how the publishing market has changed, I fully expect that I could end up self-publishing and be nowhere near a contract by the time I reach a third novel.  I just want to get my work out there.  I  don’t look at self-publishing as a negative, but I don’t want to create the expectation that my book is the next NY Times best seller when I can’t even find the time to write.

I feel like I need a plan.  Or a schedule.  Maybe I could just plan to invade an hour that I set aside for sleep, or maybe I should bring my laptop and just write through my lunch break.  I’m certainly open to some sage suggestions.

What do you do when all you want to do is write, but you have to put other things first because they pay the bills?