Perhaps the best way to start this exploration about the power of writing to transform one’s life, is with a brief story about how I first discovered this amazing power. Like most people, I was not born with a pen in my hand or even the notion in my head, that one day hooking words together into sentences, would be such an important part of my life. In fact, English was far from one of my best subjects in school. While I made A’s and B’s in most subjects, I had to stretch to manage a C in high school English (and I was glad to get it.) But, during that time I did love the other end of the writing continuum — reading. Once in a while in my dreamier states, I dared to speculate about what it would be like to one day become a writer.
I Owe it all to Mac
But it wasn’t until 1984, when that dream started to become a reality. At that time, I began hearing about a new computer called the Macintosh. Being an Apple computer enthusiast, I decided one Saturday to visit the local Apple store and check out this new toy. Twenty minutes later, thanks to a nice (and I might add very cute) sales lady, I strolled out with my own Macintosh, a printer, and a new credit card with the entire purchase on the account.
My Macintosh was one of the first 1,000 machines off the assembly line, and only two
programs were available for it —MacPaint and MacWrite. (By the way, I still have it in my garage, if anyone wants to make an offer on it.) It didn’t take long for me to realize it’s next to impossible to draw anything useful with a mouse. Fun, yes. Useful, no. By Monday morning, with a good case of buyer’s remorse setting in, I became frantic to find some way to justify this irrational and spontaneous buying spree. Finally, I decided the Macintosh was a sign. After all, I had been telling myself for years that one day I would try my hand at writing. After glancing at the calendar and my charge card bill, I realized that one day had arrived.
I set about writing my first article. Since I was a practicing veterinarian at the time, the article was a short piece about the reasons for spaying your cat, which I promptly sent off to Purrrrr!, a newsletter for cat lovers published in Maine.(I remember to this day that the title of the magazine is spelled with five R’s.) A month or so later, I received my first check in the mail for $50. I was thrilled and delighted. Even though I was making a good living as a vet, that was my first exposure to what I call “passion money.” Next, I wrote a long short story, Dog’s Best Friend, a science fiction story loosely taken from my experiences with the then new Parvovirus. I dashed it off to a small science fiction magazine for young adults, which promptly sent me back an acceptance.
Wow! I was batting two for two. My impression was that this writing thing was going to be a breeze. I started envisioning a life of leisure, sitting on the deck of my mountain hideaway, typing a couple hours each day on my next best seller.
Dog’s Best Friend gave me my first exposure to the difference between “paid on acceptance” and “paid on publication.” A magazine accepted my short story as “paid on publication,” which meant that, although they had accepted my story, I would not get paid until they printed it. After waiting eighteen months with no check, despite numerous letters reminding them of their promise, I grew impatient. By this time, I had become a regular contributor to Purrrrr! They published all the articles I sent to them and paid me right away. So, I figured, I would just take “Dog’s Best Friend” back and get it published somewhere else, probably for more money than I had been offered. That’s what I did.
That was more than twenty years ago, and “Dog’s Best Friend” has yet to find its way into print. During the same time span, I also learned that the business of writing isn’t always quite as easy as those early beginner’s luck experiences suggested. At the same time, I’ve discovered a lot about what works and what doesn’t in the world of magazine publishing.
At the same time, I was also learning that writing can be a very powerful and fun way to not only make money, but also express oneself, and in the process to transform one’s life. For many people, a crucial step is to shift your mindset from non-writer to writer. And that’s what the next installment of this blog series will be about. Stay tuned.
But before You Go
While I’m a bit of an introvert by nature, I do still enjoy hearing from other people, especially if you have kind things to say, comments that will add to the conversation or questions. So, let me hear from you right down there where it says “Share Your Purpose-filled Comments.”