Live First, Write Second

NotebooksThese days, everyone with a computer and an Internet signal writes about the food they eat, clothes they buy, places they visit, places they dream of visiting, and people they wish to meet. Some do it for fun but others may believe this to be a stepping-stone to a writing career.

We all know there are writing jobs in Los Angeles. We hear of people who write screenplays, television shows, magazine articles, books, and much more. But realistically, this is a small percentage of the city’s population. And if you ever want to be part of that subset, you are battling existing writers protecting their own careers along with aspiring writers like yourself. This is why having a “day job” in the city is so important.

When I graduated high school in ’97, I began looking for retail work that would allow me to go to college. I had been working part-time but wanted a few more hours now that I had some freedom with scheduling individual classes.

While in college, life began to happen, as it so often does. I fell in love with a girl, got married, and had a child a few years later. As time passed, work started to become a higher priority than school until it eliminated school altogether.

After a few years away, I did eventually go back to school. In 2008, I graduated from Cal State University of Dominguez Hills. About a month after graduation, I took a sales & marketing position with a family-owned manufacturer of musical instrument accessories. I attribute the quick find to being a recent graduate with real work experience.

Over the last ten years, I’ve modified myself within the company to do the things I enjoy doing. I get to travel, visit trade shows to experience products before they are available, and help develop our own new products. But the key activity that I get to complete at work is to write. I write almost everything the company requires before it gets edited with the entire creative team.

It’s this job that has enabled me to write without guilt. Our bills are paid each month and my family has food, shelter, and a few extras. I’m afforded the necessary freedom to write independently. Without this job, I don’t believe writing would currently play such a major role in my life. Providing for my family will always have a higher priority than putting words on a page unless those words are a source of income.

I’m sure the preceding words may seem like heresy to aspiring writers who may be reading this. If that’s you, I first thank you for taking the time to read this far. Second, allow me to explain why the act of writing should not be the top priority in a writer’s life.

I believe a writer must carry out three activities often. The first is simple: read. Reading will improve grammar and help young writers understand the balance of art and skill that is writing. Turn off the television and read; read often, read about different topics, and read works of multiple authors.

The second activity is writing. If you think that writing is something you want to explore, start writing. Do not think about writing jobs or your future as a best-selling novelist. Simply grab a pen or start your computer, and write. Use whatever spare time you have to write. Even if time is limited, you should want to write every day. If you love it, you will gradually spend more time writing until it becomes a daily escape, therapy, or even a drug. It should never feel like a chore. If it does, congratulations, you just realized writing is not the career for you and are one step closer to finding the one that is.

The final activity essential for every writer is the most important and the one most often forgotten: living. Regardless of your writing topics, every writer must be able to express thoughts and feelings through words. It’s imperative you experience joy, sorrow, envy, lust, and all other pleasures and pains of life. Ignoring life around you as it occurs will lead to dry, empty writing. It’s the many twists and turns of life that mold the writer and provide the courage and skill necessary to put your soul on a page.

So get out and let life happen. Go ahead and fall in love, go to school, get jobs, lose jobs, travel, have kids, meet people, fight, protest—live. Let life give you a reason to write rather than pausing life to make time to write. Pursue writing with an equal passion for life and you may become one of the lucky few who make a living writing in Los Angeles.

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