How I Became a Writer by Mark David Gerson? Listen to your heart. Trust your intuition. Write what you’re passionate about.
Mark David Gerson is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books and creator of the Legend of Q’ntana fantasy series, coming soon to movie theaters. Among his other titles are critically acclaimed personal development and self-help guides, compelling memoirs, and books for writers that are considered classics in the field. As a sought-after writing coach/mentor and speaker on topics related to creativity, he is known internationally as “the best friend a writer ever had.” Look for Mark David’s books, videos, and services at www.markdavidgerson.com
How I Became a Writer
This “how I got my job” post is probably different from others on this site. It isn’t, for example, going to offer you a step-by-step guide to getting a writing job or becoming a successful author. Instead, I’m going to tell you a story. Why? Because that’s what I do. That’s what you’ll do, too, if my story inspires you enough to hurl nine-to-five convention out the window and surrender to the call of your Muse.
By the way, there’s nothing wrong with being a staff or freelance writer. I’ve done both. It’s just not what I do these days. These days, I mostly write books (18 published and a 19th in-progress) and screenplays (three currently optioned).
Before I start, though, I want to share a couple of quotes with you…from writers, of course.
“If you have to write, you’ll write. You don’t choose the writer’s life. The writer’s life chooses you.”
– Tom Grimes
“I cannot possibly tell you how I came to write [A Wrinkle in Time]. It was simply a book I had to write. I had no choice.”
– Madeleine L’Engle
Now, here’s my story…
Once upon a time, there was a kid who hated writing and was convinced he wasn’t creative. When it came to school, all he wanted was to get through English class and its writing burdens as painlessly as possible.
His Muse had other plans. His Muse had always had other plans. How else can you explain his first typewriter? A gift in his freshman year at high school, it was a sleek, green Hermes — an unusual brand. Hermes, of course, was the Greek god of communication…and, thus, writers. And how can you explain why he agreed, a few years later, to be in charge of publicity for the senior high school musical? It was out-of-character for him to take on anything that involved not only writing but making his writing public.
I like to joke that my Muse tricked me into becoming a writer, and that’s how it began — with that typewriter and the publicity gig.
From high school musical press releases, I graduated into college musical press releases, gaining enough renown in local theater circles that I found myself freelancing as a theater publicist. Suddenly, I was being paid to write!
From college, I went to work at a dynamic p.r. startup. It was still mostly press releases, but I was writing. Unfortunately, the startup wasn’t dynamic enough. Less than a year later, I was laid off.
It was my next p.r. job that accelerated my transformation into a full-time writer. Not only did I prepare press releases, I wrote news and feature articles, something I had never done before. And thanks to the media contacts I gained on the job, I began freelancing on the side, thrilled to see my byline in major metropolitan dailies and national magazines. After a few years of that, I converted my side gig into a full-time one. To my astonishment, I was supporting myself as a writer and editor.
My writer’s story could have ended there, but it didn’t…nor did the behind-the-scenes machinations of my Muse.
You see, I still refused to see myself as creative. A skilled artisan with words, perhaps. But certainly not creative.
That changed one Monday morning during a simple water-cooler conversation. I was working in-house as a freelance magazine editor when one of the staffers corralled me.
“I’ve just taken this amazing creative writing workshop,” she gushed. “You’ve got to take it.”
In a moment as out-of-character as the one when I agreed to run publicity for my high school Hello, Dolly!, I said yes.
Nothing was ever the same for me after that workshop.
Thanks to the instructor — to both her workshops and her mentoring — I discovered that I was creative. I started to go deeper with my writing, to write from my heart instead from my head. And soon I was teaching my own writing workshops.
It was in one of those workshops that my Muse gave me a gigantic push. After leading participants through a writing exercise, I did another out-of-character something: I did the exercise myself, in class.
What emerged was the first scene of a story that I not only knew nothing about but had no conscious desire to write.
No conscious desire…but a profound inner call. Remember that quote from Madeleine L’Engle? It was a story I had to write, and it became The MoonQuest — my first book and the one that finally launched me into the writer I am today.
What’s the takeaway? There are several, and they’re all related.
- Listen to your heart.
- Trust your intuition.
- Listen for the stories you can’t not tell…and tell them.
- Write what you’re passionate about.
- Ignore everyone who insists that you write a certain way or avoid certain kinds of stories.
And READ…anything and everything! I may have started out as a reluctant writer, but I was a voracious reader. Reading not only expands us as human beings, it teaches us our craft…in the easiest, most fun way possible: by osmosis.
As I put it in The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, “the more you read great writing, the more you will understand what makes it great…without having to dissect, analyze or try to figure anything out. You will simply know, and that knowingness will find its way into your writing, often unconsciously.”
I learned some of those takeaways from my mentor. I learned even more from Madeleine L’Engle. L’Engle received two years’ worth of rejections from 26 publishers (including her own) for A Wrinkle in Time, which, once it was finally published, went on to win major awards and be translated into more than a dozen languages. That’s because she wrote the book she had to, not the book others (including her publisher) thought she ought to.
That’s how I have written all my books, including The MoonQuest, which, like A Wrinkle in Time became the kickoff for a popular fantasy series. In fact, I’m working on the fourth book right now…so I’d better get back to it. Because, in the end, that’s what a writer does: A writer writes!