I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. In fact, the earliest thing I recall attempting was a science fiction novel when I was about seven. I had just finished reading the Dune series (I was a pretty precocious reader), and it turned into an unabashed clone of Herbert’s work. I only got a few dozen pages into it, but I can still remember the first scene. It was a fencing lesson in which the ‘space prince’ was being reprimanded by his wise, and suitably scarred, fencing master for not taking his lesson seriously enough.
More than 30 years later, I still hate science fiction with swords. What kind of a moron uses a sword in space?
That aside, I remember everything I’ve ever written. Every scene. Every story line. All the dialog.
I really haven’t stopped writing since that first attempt. I wrote all through junior and high schools. After university, I worked in a bar at night and wrote all day. I wrote four books and countless stories in just over two years. I stopped counting my rejection slips at 500, but I still have them all.
My first paying gig was a science fiction story for Penthouse, believe it or not. That was a really big check for an 18-year-old to cash. I used to get calls at home from the editor – I had absolutely no idea how remarkable that was until I became one myself many years later.
I did know what that check meant, though. ‘You can get paid for this crap? I’m totally doing this for a living.’
I was lucky enough to become a paid freelancer and then land a few paying jobs before coming on to help launch realscreen. I’d write all day, and then go home and write, unless I had a shift at the bar. (Staff writers don’t make tons of cash…) I started getting up to write at 5 a.m. when the bar cut into my writing time, or I’d just pull all-nighters.
But here I am. Decades later, I make my living with words. Even though I’m sitting on six unpublished books (two of which are really good, by the way… cough…) and a small mound of stories, it doesn’t matter. I’m able to feed my daughter and pay my mortgage doing something I love.
I don’t want to turn this into a PSA, but I’m one of the lucky ones. Most of the writers I know gave up a long time ago and became lawyers and accountants and musicians. Oh, the humanity… What a sad waste of talent.
But I expect my experience isn’t unique. Writers develop slowly: first you have to learn how to write, then you have to live long enough to have something worthwhile to say.
I’m not a member of the Writers Guild, but I sympathize. And it’s unfortunate that projects are being stalled, and award shows are being canceled, and people in surrounding industries are being harmed. All those people put in their time too, and their road was just as long.
But I keep hearing people say things about it ‘just being television’ and how ‘anyone can write that crap,’ and I think about all those times when the alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. and I got up to sit in front of a computer, and I want to beat them with a keyboard until the letters rub off.