by Judy Merrill Larsen
A few weeks ago, Mary, one of my best friends called to ask if she could pass my name on to the college-aged daughter of a friend of hers. It seemed that this young woman was an English major, and one of her assignments required her to interview a writer. Of course I said yes. I too had once been an English major (how great was that--you read and write AND get credit!). So, we arranged for a phone interview and it was fun. She asked thoughtful questions, laughed at my stupid jokes (always a big plus in my book), and had genuine curiosity about what it was like to be a writer. The process, the product, and everything in between (and after).
The call was good for me, too, coming on one of those days when I felt nothing like a writer. I was far removed from any sense of the wonder and joy of writing. But, as I talked to her, I started remembering how much I do love being a writer. And not just the wear-your-jammies-to-work aspect of it. I mean, this has been my dream since I was a little girl and first realized that on the other side of the books I adored was a person who created worlds I could disappear into. My husband reminds me that lots of people have big dreams when they are 8 (his was to play first base for the Chicago Cubs), but only a lucky few get to see those dreams realized. I'm in that group. Amazing.
So when this young woman asked for advice, along with suggesting she line up a paying job (at least to start with), I also told her to never give up. And to read everything she could. And to write for the love of it no matter what. No matter how many rejections piled up or how many people doubted or how many times she started over. And as we chatted I was reminded of a quote I love, attributed to Doris Betts, a short story writer, who said "Writing is a hard way to make a living, but a good way to make a life.”
And that's it exactly, isn't it?
So I repeated this quote to my interviewer and I really hope that if she took anything from our phone call, it's that quote. And it won't mean much to her today or even perhaps in the next few years. But, if she sticks with it, I'd love it if someday she thinks of that quote and smiles in satisfaction and understanding.
And now, let me ask you--what's your best advice for writers? What's your suggestion for how to achieve a dream?
(This was taken the night of my launch party . . . a dream come true!)
I live in St. Louis, MO with my husband, am the mom/stepmom to five kids (ages 17-25), and taught high school English for 15 years. I'm over on Facebook and am always eager to make new friends, too!