How did this happen?

Photo courtesy of Oberazzi @ flickr.com

To fully appreciate the tone of this post, please read it with a southern accent. Thanks y’all.

It happened quite by accident, I promise. I became a writer with no intention to do so. I was quite happy with my career, teaching middle school science. No, seriously. Stop laughing. I really did enjoy teaching middle school. I was quite good at it too. My students scored well on standardized tests and enjoyed the many songs, dances, and costumes I incorporated in class. So how did someone who loved her job, and was darn good at it, become an accidental writer?

It all started in fall of 2009. My husband was offered a management position on the other side of the country. In the span of a year we moved from Chattanooga, TN to San Francisco, CA to just north of Seattle, WA. That’s right – mention a road trip in my house and you better be wearing protective head gear.

I expected to take the first year off after our move to help settle us in and I knew it would take a while to get my teaching license and credentials changed over. It’s not like you can get an FBI fingerprint analysis finished while you’re getting your oil changed and doing your grocery shopping at HellMart.

So I played homeroom mom for my daughter’s fifth grade classroom and even did a little substitute teaching. Then it was time to move on up to Lake Stevens, about an hour north of Seattle. And there I was. Year two was starting and I still had not returned to the classroom.

Now it just so happens that I have written my fair share of papers and reviews for academic purposes. I’m pretty decent at it and can convey complex stuff in simple and easy to understand terms – hence the reason I’m a darn good teacher. I started looking and applied to places like wiseGEEK and eHow and badda bing badda boom…I had some extra money coming in. It felt good to be doing something again, but I still wasn’t satisfied.

Anyone who knows me knows I have a more creative mind that what wiseGEEK and eHow are designed for. So I started playing around with words and reading some literary blogs. The librarians know me by sight and make suggestions all the time (I still haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or if it’s just pathetic). It’s nothing anymore to come in to my home and see stacks of novels, and even a few non-fiction books too, piled up near my favorite places to sit. Characters started talking to me like old friends. I didn’t know it at the time, but something magical was happening to me.

I sat in my chair one day, wondering, could it be possible? Surely not. I couldn’t be. Could I? Writers are born, not made. I would have known before now. Wouldn’t I? I’m not a writer, am I? Not a real one? Right?

I let my mind wander back through time. I remember making books as a young child and binding them with ribbons and glue and staples or whatever else I could find around the house. But I can’t honestly say that I ever once thought to myself, “I wanna be a famous writer when I grow up.” Not once. Ever. But as I was sitting in my favorite chair that day a funny thought hit me: Did I even know writing was a career option?

Nope. Sure didn’t. I thought writing was just something people did for fun. Sure I knew authors got paid for writing but I honestly never considered writing as a viable career choice any more than I would consider painting and crafting as career choices (yes, I know there are people who paint and craft for a living, but very few of them do so without a day job). These things are just hobbies, right?

And let’s be honest, the whole starving artist image is offensive to my southern sensibilities (my friends are now rolling on the floor with laughter at that last comment but it’s okay).

It wasn’t until the whole JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer debacle that I thought, “Wait a minute. You mean people get paid money to write books? They get paid well for making up stories? Hold the phone. Why didn’t someone tell me this before?” I don’t know what the hell I thought Stephen King was doing to pay the bills all these years – but let’s be real – he is Stephen friggin’ King after all.

It dawned on me then that I had been playing with writing for a long time – years before we even considered leaving Chattanooga. I’m actually a pro at the first five chapters. And here I was with all this free time on my hands…so I decided to let it go and just see what happened.

I just finished my first novel which is now going through its first rewrite. Freelance writing jobs are flowing like manna from heaven. And I’m loving every minute of it. My husband asked me the other night at dinner what I would do if I were to get a teaching offer tomorrow. I hesitated, trying to gauge how I truly felt about it. The only answer I could come up with was, “I miss the classroom something terrible, but I won’t ever stop writing.”

I am indeed an Accidental Writer…

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