Monday, May 24, 2010

When Did You Know?

stack-of-sharpened-pencils When I was a teenager and people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I often shrugged (I was a big shrugger back then). Maybe an inventor. Or an engineer. Or maybe I'd like to own my own business. (This is in contrast to my brother who wanted to be a bear when he grew up. In his defense, he was only about four years old when he said it.) Beyond those generalities, though, I didn't have much of a clue. And I have to admit, those were merely vague ideas. A lot of things interested me, but I couldn't really pinpoint any one that I wanted to devote my career to.

So I went to college and majored in mechanical engineering, figuring that would keep me on track for any of my career choices (besides, I was always good with math and science). Four years later, I had my degree and took a job in manufacturing, as an engineer on the management track.

Ho hum. The jobs were mostly boring; a smattering of interesting things here and there kept them from being full-out terrible. But after a few years of moving around the country, supervising assembly workers in factories, I'd had enough.

So I went to business school. I could still become an inventor and I could still start my own business.

Two years later, MBA in hand, I found myself back in the working world, toiling at jobs that were mostly boring, scintillating parts few and far between. Ho ho hum.

So I quit and started my own newsletter company, writing and editing environmental newsletters (called, strangely enough, Environmental Newsletters, Inc.). That held my interest for eight years or so, but with the coming of the Internet, my business model was changing fast. I could tell that charging for information, with so much free stuff coming on-line, was going to be a tough sell.

So I sold the business, and now, years later, I find myself writing fiction.

If you told me I'd be writing fiction when I was in high school, I would have looked at you funny (right before I snorted milk out my nose). Writing? I hated English class. I hated reading all those "classic" books. I hated discussing themes and character motivations and just about anything else writing-related. Sure, I liked reading science fiction novels, but that was about it.

I always envied those people who knew what they wanted to do with their lives, professionally, since high school. They always sounded so positive, so confident, in their choices. How could they know what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives? I barely knew what I wanted for lunch.

I guess life is just one big story with plenty of surprising twists.

Just like my books, I hope.

What about you, writers? When did you know you wanted to write when you grew up?

(This entry “simul-posted” on InkSpot.)


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8 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Alan - Interesting question! Hmmm....well, I hope the process of growing up doesn't ever stop. I hope we always evolve. They say Grandma Moses didn't start painting 'til she was 75...

To get directly to your question, I discovered I enjoyed writing when I was a young teenager, although I never really did much of it. Then, when I was in graduate school, I learned to do academic writing, and I found that I enjoyed the process of writing. It wasn't until later that I returned to fiction writing, although I'd been a passionate crime fiction fan since my teens. Funny how these things take hold at different times in life...

Terry Odell said...

I was a card-carrying AARP member before I started writing, and I got into it by mistake--trying to find common ground with my son. Long story, but I love where I am now.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

Honestly? I fell into it. I wanted to be an actor. When I stopped acting a few years ago, friends pointed out to me that I'd actually been writing for years - murder nights for fundraisers. Then I remembered I'd written plays in school which I forced my class to do. I guess I've been writing for many years, but never paid attention to it. I'm trying to give it a bit more attention now!

Alan Orloff said...

Margot - It's interesting how "where you are in life" has such an impact as to what you want to do.

Terry - If I want to find common ground with my son, maybe I should "text" my next novel.

Elspeth - Whenever my manuscript calls for more attention, I stuff a sock in its mouth and turn up the volume on the TV.

Maribeth said...

I started writing as soon as I could make a word on paper. Neighborhood newsletter on a Thom Thumb typewriter, that sort of thing.
I got sidetracked with "jobs" and only wrote for me for years. Then forced retirement pushed me into "now or never."
Thanks for opening the memory box.
Maribeth
Giggles and Guns

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

After my husband retired my daily routine changed – he likes to cook, doesn’t mind grocery shopping, and had no problem helping with housework. I had more free time on my hands. I ended up spending a little bit of every day in my writing corner which ultimately turned a hobby into a brand new career.

cassandrajade said...

I've always wanted to write though I didn't want to do it as a job. I still don't. Writing is the thing I do to wind down after the job.

Lorel Clayton said...

Great story. It's so interesting to see how life twists and turns.

I imagined myself writing after first grade, when I learned I could write a book as well as read one! Awesome realization. However, I never pictured it as a career. I always thought I'd get a book published someday, and I'd be satisfied. Then I started having too many book ideas (along with hating my current job), and another lightbulb went off--some people do make a living off writing. Maybe I can too!
I'm working toward that goal, but it remains to be seen whether or not I'll ever be able to quit my day job.