On Becoming a Writer


1. somebody who writes books or articles professionally

2. somebody who can write, who writes well, or who enjoys writing

It hasn’t been easy. For starters, I started my writing career in third grade with pencil in hand. My thoughts were always three sentences ahead of my hand. I became an expert for the next three years with excuses as to why my writing assignment was not complete (i.e., The dreaded “What I did on summer vacation.”):

My sister has the scurvy and my whole family has been by her bedside (I still have no idea what scurvy actually is and the fact that sis was two doors down in her own classroom, this excuse wasn’t going to last long. Changing the malady to the clap made things worse).

My dog has a graphite deficiency and we had to feed him every pencil in the house (I should have stayed with the sick sister storyline).

Finally seventh grade and a new school greeted me. The lies and stories could stop. This place had a whole room of typewriters. And so I took my first typing class, probably not a good idea for a kid who liked to touch anything in front of him.

Mr. Timmons: The most important thing about writing on a typewriter…

Me: Swishhh … DING

Most of my time in typing class was spent sitting in the hall staring at my feet. “I think my left foot is growing faster than my right.”

Next came high school and as I walked down the hall there was a glow coming from one of the classrooms. I looked in and fell in love… computers… rows of them. Writing was suddenly about creating. The process became easier. Four years later I went off to college and instead of becoming a writer, I chose teaching instead and the jobs were plentiful.

Just like that the tables were turned. Now I was teaching writing to 11, 12, and 13 year olds and it was like seeing myself. Try reading thirty 3-5-page stories in one night without your head hitting the table. But I persevered and kept trying fun and creative ways to get kids to write. But I was not doing any writing of my own.

I had gone back to college and got two more degrees, neither of them in fine arts. I did have the experience of authoring a mind-numbing dissertation. This experience taught me about the process of rejection and re-writing. Once my words were accepted, I needed a change. No more technical writing.

I sat down and wrote a story about a boy who hated to write and wanted a dad. It was not good, but it did give me a feeling of exhilaration and of time standing still as I typed the story. It would be another ten years before I got serious. After looking through writing and publishing books, taking a few writing classes, scouring blogs for tips and techniques, and reading every middle school book I could get my hands on, a writer was born.

I sat in the Atlanta airport three years ago and began the journey. A cancelled flight gave me the time. A new story idea was hatched. In three months I had the story down, but as most writers will tell you, it’s all about the re-writing.  For me that is the best part. Mrs. Inez and Mr. Timmons would be shocked.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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