From the Back Nine: A writing career

I was asked to take part in the Career Day at Sequim High School. I believe info on “a career as a writer” must have been pretty tongue in cheek: Be a strange introvert who lives on no money at all and is stuck for a topic, even at charades.

Nonetheless, I went and discovered a lot of interest in writing as a side hustle, if not a career.

A common question: “How do I get started?”

So here are my unofficial but reasonable steps to take on your way to a writing career:


• “I don’t have time to write,” is a poor excuse if you want to be a writer. Make time.

• You don’t need an ice rink or concert hall to practice. Pen and paper is the only cost of entry. Go write something.

• Experiment with essays and poetry and journalism and short stories. You’ll have time to specialize later.

• Earn while you learn: Learn your craft even if you don’t like the project. Newsletters, greeting cards, blogs, ads, catalogs, websites, briefs, grants. They pay you to write. Even if they don’t, it’s a start on your way to a Pulitzer.


• It exercises the brain bits that exercise the keyboard.

• Especially read the genre you decide you want to write: mystery, romance, historical, etc.

• Most especially, read Stephen King’s “On Writing.” If your library doesn’t have it, start a protest. It’s great.


• If you see something, feel something, do something, make a note of it. One day a character you write will have that thing to see, feel, or do.

• Travel if you can.

• Research what you don’t know until it sounds like you do. Research keeps science fiction honest and fantasy possible and reporting realistic.


• Listening to people talk is the best way to learn dialog between different types, and

• bad dialog leads to bad writing in all forms of publications


• This is the flip side of eavesdropping: learn to converse.

• Writers no longer live silently in ivory towers. If you want to publish what you write, learn how to be someone people want to hear.

• Learn to state your case convincingly whether poet or reporter.

Develop a thick skin

• Everybody writes so everybody’s a critic. Your writing will be rejected more often than accepted. If that throws you into a tail spin, I suggest a different career choice. Take what seems reasonable advice and leave the rest.

• Writing often involves stating beliefs that are not your own or covering subjects that are touchy. Find your own comfort level with this, fiction or otherwise. You have to live with it.

I could go on and on. But there’s a limit to the Back Nine. If you have a question, though, feel free to contact me at