By Lu Anne Stewart
For much of my adult life, I have dreamed of being a full-time writer. I worked for seven years as a newspaper reporter and editor, then spent many more years in public relations, where I had the chance to write everything from a Harvard Business Review case study to a speech for an NFL player helping to launch a new charity. Interesting, challenging work, but the writing was only one piece of it, and I longed for time to write the growing list of stories rattling around in my brain.
Like so many other writers, I worked on fiction in my “spare” time, rising early to carve out an hour to write before I headed off to my job, writing on weekends, taking vacation days to attend writing workshops. I was encouraged by the dedication of other writers with a day job, like John Grisham, who wrote A Time to Kill while working full-time as a lawyer.
Now, I finally have my chance. I’ve left the workaday world to launch my own adventure as a writer—fiction, freelance writing and some journalistic work, too. I’m looking forward to that first time I meet a new person and, when they ask what I do, I can simply say, “I’m a writer.”
This new season of life reminds me very much of those heady days just after graduating from college, when the future lay ahead like an open door into a secret garden, filled with every possibility imaginable and waiting to be explored. At the same time, I’m keenly aware that I have no more excuses for not writing.
I’m reminded of a friend’s story from his college days. He was telling his English professor how much he loved to write and yearned to be a writer, and the professor looked at him squarely and said, “Oh? What have you written today?”
My friend stuttered, “Well, I haven’t written anything yet today…”
“If you love to write so much, why are you denying yourself that pleasure?” the professor responded.
Fair point. Now that I have this freedom, I am determined to put every available moment to good use. My current project, a novel about an idealistic young reporter in the post-Watergate 1970s, is in the final editing stages and I’m eager to send it out into the world. An idea for the next novel is germinating. I have some short story drafts to go back and polish, and there’s even a completed screenplay for a film about a time in the not-too-distant future when we’ll be able to take a pill to halt the aging process. Maybe it’s time to dust that off, too.
All of these drafts and ideas are starting to look less like failed attempts and more like possibilities waiting to sprout in that secret garden. It’s time to go to work.