Monday, November 26, 2018

When You wish upon a Star

Q: What obstacles, if any, did you encounter on your road to becoming a writer? And how did you overcome them?

- from Susan

The story I’m sharing on Criminal Minds today is intended to help writers just starting down this path. Others have similar personal stories from which people beginning this journey may take hope and practical tips. Bottom line: If you really are driven to write fiction, know there is a way forward!

I’ve always been a professional writer, always had writing and editing and some form of communications among my job responsibilities. There’s not much else I can do well, truth be told. My transition from non-fiction to crime fiction took awhile. I suppose a lack of courage was the biggest obstacle, but I will defend myself. Left broke during the bad vibes of divorce, I was determined never to be in that situation again. I worked hard at my profession, did well, rebuilt my finances. 

I started writing crime fiction novel #1 in the evenings, but realized I had no business writing about a Latina policewoman in San Francisco since I didn’t know any Latina woman well enough to try and characterize one, and knew only the smallest bit about the local police procedure. Into the drawer. I started writing crime fiction #2 about a high tech crime after writing a long profile piece for an alumni magazine about a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, but was derailed my lack of understanding of the sharp knives in that industry. (I know more now, which is why a sharp Silicon Valley lawyer plays a central role in MIXED UP WITH MURDER.) 

All this time, I was working as a consultant with clients all over the US, then executive director of a world famous institute, and then as an exec in higher education. None of those jobs could ever be described as 9-to-5, so the fiction writing was starved for attention. But my treat to myself every couple of years was attendance at a crime writers’ conference, which kept my dream alive.

Then, my wise artist partner gave me the best advice a timid writer could ever receive: Meet with a financial advisor. Share your goals and find out how much savings you need in order to quit the day job without fear of becoming a bag lady. When you reach that magic number, QUIT the day job. Do not think, “Oh if I work another year I’ll be so much more secure.” 

So I did. And knowing the day was coming, I sailed into crime novel #3, really throwing myself into it. When the magic day came, I made my move, and had the time and energy to finish what became MURDER IN THE ABSTRACT, the first of the first series. 

So, my fear was not a fear of artistic failure, it was a fear of what happens when you don’t have the money to take care of yourself or your kids. For other writers, it will be something entirely different. But if you see a bit of yourself in my story, take heart and never give up your writerly dreams.


Paul D. Marks said...

That's good advice about meeting with a financial adviser, Susan. I think more of us would benefit if we'd done that.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

An interesting story, Susan, and some good advice.

RJ Harlick said...

"Never give up on your writerly dreams" great advice. It's all about persisting with these dreams, isn't it? Great post, Susan.

Susan C Shea said...

Paul, I don't know if what was keeping me from diving into my fiction writing would be the same for everyone. We all have our inner doubts and they might not be financial. My Tim just nailed it for me!

Dietrich, thanks.

Robin, if the dream won't be stuffed down, it must be followed!