What Does It Mean to Be a Writer?

My occupation is writing. I discovered when I was six years old that I was born to write. I struggled against that dictate. I tried various other professions and even took a BA in music before acceding to my vocation. And since writing doesn’t pay, I became a spy—which pays every well. Along the way in that profession, I became comfortable in seven foreign languages. That knowledge, ironically, turns out to be of great value in writing English. I was so successful as a spy and, later, as a leader, that I rose to the top of the executive ranks in the federal government. I then retired as early as I could to write fulltime. That was thirty years ago. I now have six books and 17 short stories in print.

The life of a writer suits me. When I’m at my best I can write fourteen hours a day. The story in my head pushes me to get it down on the page. I can’t write fast enough. And I’ll have no peace until it’s all written. It’s as if my Muse were dictating, allowing me no rest until the job is done.

Then comes revision. I keep polishing the text until it sings when I read it aloud. That means I usually revise a book ten times before I’m satisfied. And that explains why I am such a slow writer.

I’m more fortunate than most. I have genuinely enjoyed all the different kinds of work I’ve done during my life. I enjoyed the many part-time jobs I had as a child and young man. I took them on at first to be sure I’d have enough to eat when my alcoholic mother and prisoner father failed me. All through college I worked twenty hours a week to feed and house myself. I spent the day of my graduation ceremony in the hospital suffering from exhaustion.

More next time.

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