On Being a Writer


For this month’s “Off-Topic” post, I’ll be discussing the often difficult hobby/career of writing.  It seems that everyone wants to be a writer.  However, finding the right niche, and more importantly, the dedication, is much more difficult than most imagine.  Understand that I am not speaking of blogging specifically.  Blogging is only one form of writing that has it’s own benefits and drawbacks that I’ll discuss in a moment.

It would seem logical to start with the most current development in my writing career and go from there.  Please note that I use the term career loosely here as one must be making money to distinguish a hobby from a career.

As of last week, I am officially a writing student again.  I am working towards a Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing (Non Fiction) from Southern New Hampshire University.  At this point, it is apparent that it is going to keep me busy as there are a lot of writing assignments per week as well as research papers (15-20 pages!) and countless reading assignments.  I am confident that I’m going to learn a lot and that the effort will be well worth it for my career as an educator and writer.

I began my writing hobby as a young man coping with the struggles of life.  I’d write horrible poetry about melancholy subjects, journal entries, and occasional short stories.  Even then I dreamed of being an English teacher but I never suspected that writing would take me anywhere or even become a serious hobby or career option.

Eventually I grew up (debatable) and joined the military.  After wearing out some quality combat boots, my military career took me to a desk where I wrote technical documents, standard operating procedures, and high-level correspondence.  I know it sounds boring but I actually enjoyed it.  It gave me an opportunity to develop my writing and become clear and concise with every sentence.

After leaving the military, I decided to complete my bachelor’s degree at West Virginia University Institute of Technology.  I took as many English courses as possible.  During one of my classes, I was asked to join the writing club.  At that time, there were only three professors and even fewer students.  I submitted a few poems and a couple of short stories and to my amazement, the professors were highly impressed.  They helped me develop the basic skills of writing stories and poems and encouraged me to dedicate myself to writing.  My Creative Writing professor mentored me throughout my last semester and encouraged me to consider writing as a profession.  One of my professors was the editor of the university’s literary journal and recommended that I submit my poetry and at least one short story.  I submitted two poems and my first short story written as an adult and to my astonishment, I received first place in both prose and poetry.  Looking back, it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Since then, I’ve written short stories and a few poems but spend most of my writing time on SmoothingIt.com.  SmoothingIt’s numbers are satisfactory and it looks like I might actually get a book published in the near future (if you haven’t done this, it’s a painful process.)  I enjoy writing about the outdoors but I find it difficult to stay on topic.  That’s the main reason that I began the monthly “Off-Topic” posts.  Perhaps in the future, I’ll add some short stories or even poetry.

Writing is a difficult hobby and a near impossible career.  It can work if you have the aptitude to write and more importantly, the dedication to write often.  If you are willing to spend hours and hours writing, refining, and editing a story, I figure you’ve got a chance.  If you want to write occasionally in your spare time, it’s probably best to consider it a hobby.

Blogging is a completely different aspect of writing.  One of the things I’ve found most interesting is how posts become popular.  Some of my best written stories or articles were published without a ripple in the blogosphere while posts that I threw together at the last minute to fill space received high numbers, lots of reader-activity, and a surge in followers.  Thus far, I enjoy blogging and expect to continue as long as time allows.  I don’t intend to get rich from it (although I do hope that I sell a fair number of books) but I do enjoy meeting other like-minded bloggers and the opportunity to share my thoughts, opinions, and adventures with other outdoorsmen.


17 thoughts on “On Being a Writer

  1. At this point in my life I am not sure I could write many research papers. I suppose if I found something I am passionate about, maybe. Right now I am perfectly happy writing 1,000 word or less blog posts as a hobby. I look forward to your future books. Good luck with classes.

    • I totally understand that logic. I’m not overly excited about doing research papers but I’m hoping that I can pull it off. lol. I think blogging is a terrific hobby. And you do it well. Keep it up, my friend!

      • I am not sure how well I do it, but thank you. I admire you for furthering your education. I often think about going back and getting a masters in theology, but at this point in my life I am not sure I can handle one more thing.

      • Thanks. I totally understand not having to time to add one more thing. Sometimes I feel the same way. I’ve known for some time that I was going to attempt post-grad work and this seems like the perfect time in my life. Concerning the master’s in theology, my father complete his master’s in either theology or divinity (I can’t remember which) from Liberty University and has nothing but praise for their program. If you do ever consider it, check them out as they may be just what you’re looking for.

  2. Astutely put, Duncan! I’m suspecting your thoughts on the matter are pretty spot on. I’m reminded of one of my writing heroes, a humble bloke by the name of Pat McManus. He said if you want to find out whether or not you’re a writer, set aside a block of time each day, two hours is about right, and then write. 7 days a week. Do it every day. In a month, he said, you should have a pretty good idea if your cut out for the business.

    You’re putting out a book? I need to do that too. Still trying to figure out the best way to go about it tho. Got any good advice thus which you have learned in the trenches?

    Anyways, good write-up. I enjoyed it. Stick with it, Duncan, and fight the good fight!

    • Thanks for your input! It’s always a challenge finding time to write, especially with four children, a wife, two old cars that always need work, etc. Life has its way of trying to steal your time. Admittedly, there are times when I do well but there are times when I slack off a lot. Until it becomes a career (by this I mean making money), it’s hard to dedicate all of your time to writing.

      I am in fact in the process of finishing my first book. Although it isn’t a Hemingway masterpiece, it is a good outdoorsman primer and I am hoping that it does well. Every step of the process has been a learning experience. I’m actually in sight of the finish line now so maybe after I get it out, I’ll do a post on the processes involved.

      By the way, from my point of view, you are a fantastic writer. Of course I enjoy grilling, and cooking in general, but concerning POTP, I most enjoy your beautiful writing style. Keep it up!

  3. Some friends have asked me what the purpose of my blog is, and I guess its just for fun. I look at the stats on it and naturally I’m happy when I get a number of visits and comments, but I don’t know if that’s my end goal. What are your goals, roughly speaking?

    • That’s a great question Andy! In my perfect world, SmoothingIt’s stats would explode, the book would sell enough copies that I could retire and move my family to the mountains, and the whole process would lead to a lucrative career as a backwoods guide. But in the real world, SmoothingIt is little more than a place for me to share my thoughts and experiences on the outdoors. I actually have a friend that I write to specifically. He doesn’t know as he’s never even seem my blog. But he’s never experienced the outdoors and wouldn’t know where to begin. My hopes are that others like him find SmoothingIt.com and realize that everyone can enjoy the outdoors and that it doesn’t take anything special or a lot of money to go out and enjoy what nature has to offer. So as far as goals, I’m not sure. I just write and see what happens. lol

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