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.