It’s not really a secret. It’s persistence.
As a child, I always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always felt drawn to write. I never knew why. I knew I was good at telling stories. I’ve always been creative and quirky. It seemed like a natural fit.
I was 27 years old in 2006. I was bored. I was a new mother in a job I hated. I told a coworker I loved Stephen King, and she lent me his book On Writing. I read it cover to cover in no time flat. It was hilarious and memorable but it also contained excellent advice: If you want to be a writer, just write. All the time. Every day. Any way you can.
I took this command from “the King” very seriously. I’m a goal setter, so I set a lofty goal: I thought if I could write for four hours a day, in no time, I’d be a pro. People would look at me and say, “Now, that’s a writer!” And someone would pay me to write.
I tried to do it. It was impossible. Who can write for four hours a day? What mother [and full time employee] has time to do that? And what on earth would I write about?
When I think about how short sighted that goal was, I laugh at myself.
Instead, I started small. I wrote papers for my associates’ degree. I wrote satirical essays for my coworkers. I sent my best friend music reviews. I kept a journal about my daughter’s first six months. I had no idea what I was doing. I just chose topics and wrote.
What the hell… it’s practice.
Thankfully, I received an offer to run a tiny nonprofit organization. Guess what comes with the lofty title of EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR? Lots and lots of writing.
I did grant writing. Communications. Marketing. Fundraising appeals. Biographical sketches of board members. Newsletter articles. Editing. Ad copy. Social media posts. Training programs. Strategic plans. Web content. You name it — I did it.
What the hell… it’s practice.
King also wrote that if you want to be a writer, you need to read. A lot.
So I started reading and reviewing books. I reviewed 52 books in a year and decided to keep going. After that, I started a new blog about community. I never knew if anyone was listening, but I kept writing.
In 2013, I decided to continue my formal education. My bachelor’s degree required yet more writing. Every weekend, I sat glued to the computer, writing hundreds of papers on leadership and related topics.
About that time, I had made some contacts in the nonprofit field and was invited to write an op-ed for a community newspaper. Homeless people in Wilmington, Delaware, bought the papers for a quarter and sold them for a dollar. It was a way out of poverty. I took great pride in knowing that my little bit of writing may have contributed to someone else’s progress. I wrote about hardship, progress, and the nuances of life. The paper went under, but by then I had written diligently — each and every month — for two years.
I took on a new job when the first one disappeared. It involved a lot of promotional writing, creating marketing plans, and developing training programs.
In 2014, I came across a job description for a marketing specialist at a health system known for having excellent benefits. By then, I was divorced with two small kids. Moms need to think about these things. So I moved on.
The job was the most intensive writing practice I’d ever had. I interviewed patients, physicians, donors, and staff. I used my stories to broadcast our hospitals and their mission. I wrote web content, advertising copy, created and executed marketing campaigns, wrote speeches, planned new service launches, and dabbled in graphic design and video.
Sometimes I went into projects completely blind, but I was secure in the knowledge that I had the skills I needed to solve anything that came my way.
I went on to earn my Master of Science in Management. You want writing practice? You want to learn discipline? Get your master’s degree. I wrote two 10–12 page papers each week. My thesis was 50 pages long. I had ice packs on my hands at the end of most days.
When I decided to start my own side hustle this year, Parrot Content & Copy, I was well prepared. Every service I offer is something I’ve done twenty, thirty, or a hundred times before. No project is foreign or beyond the scope of my experience or resourcefulness.
And now, my words — like this post — flow out of me like water.
I get emotional because I realize, as I am typing, that I have achieved my dream of being a writer.
And damn, that’s a good feeling.
But it took persistence.
Esther Hofknecht Curtis, MSM-HCA is a freelance writer from Dover, Delaware. Follow her on Facebook — go to https://www.facebook.com/TheArdentReader19977/