I am not sure why I do not write for a living.
That statement sounds presumptuous, but it is not meant to be – I am making no claims as to talent. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that the only thing that I have in common with Faulkner and Grisham is that we all live(d) in Charlottesville. I make it simply because out of all of the career options that I have explored or can imagine, writing is the only one that doesn’t seem like work.
I have always enjoyed writing, and I have always done a lot of it. Again making no claim as to talent, I do find that I write more coherently than I speak. I have never been much of an extemporaneous speaker. Any public talk that I give, be it a business presentation, closing argument, or church invocation, can generally be found written out word-for-word somewhere. This practice doesn’t just apply to public speaking, either – some of my most serious discussions with my wife have been in written form. If I am not able to see (and consider and revise) what I am going to say and how I am going to say it, what I wind up saying will invariably be less effective than it could be.
I was an English major in college, which was perfect for me. Many of my classes were exam-free, with papers being the only graded work. In a few of my upper-level courses, we were simply required to turn in 50 pages’ worth of written work by the end of the semester – it was up to us to determine topic, format, and schedule. While this approach gave me a dangerous license to procrastinate, I loved the freedom, flexibility and creativity it afforded. I never found the writing onerous, even when I had a lot of pages left to write and little semester left in which to write them. Indeed, I’ve often found that deadline-induced adrenaline does much to inspire the muse!
Outside of class, I wrote for the college newspaper, and later, for my law school alumni magazine. I had no illusions of being, or aspirations to be, a journalist. Far from being a Woodward or Bernstein in the making, I wrote soft public interest-type articles – a retrospective on the retirement of a professor here, a publicity piece on the start-up of a new student club there. I wasn’t writing to make news, or even to report it – I was writing simply to write, and to be read. I did it because it was fun.
I used to be a rather prolific letter writer as well, before the demands of career and family started to eat up every waking moment. My mother saved many of those letters, and at some point I hope to go back through them. Despite an introspective bent, I have never been much of a diarist or journal writer, but a fairly sizable and significant chunk of my life is documented in those letters.
The technology of the last several years has been a mixed blessing as far as my writing goes. The advent of email has all but ended letter writing. Blogging, however, has opened up a tremendous new world of possibilities and opportunities. The fact that I am able to sit here and write, and have what I am writing be accessible to anyone who wants to seek it out or happens to stumble across it, is mind-boggling.
If only I could make a living at it.