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The Writing Life

By Tim Hayes

You ask a seven-year-old boy in the mid-1960s what he wants to be when he grows up, and you’ll get the expected responses – baseball player, policeman, fireman, even an astronaut like Major Nelson on “I Dream of Jeannie.”

Then you ask me and get something altogether off-the-wall.  “I want to be a writer!”  Yes, I was one of THOSE kids.  The weirdo who liked playing pickup games with his friends, but avoided the invitation to humiliation that was Little League.  The one who enjoyed playing the drums, but saw it as a way to have fun and make friends, not as a real grown-up job.

No, I knew – or at least suspected strongly – from the days sitting in that linseed oiled parochial elementary classroom, that I wanted to write.  Advance the story a few years to high school, when Watergate had reached its apex.  Watching Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein at The Washington Post systematically, methodically, carefully, responsibly, and most of all accurately document the many sins and transgressions that ultimately led to the first resignation of an American president, and I was hooked for good.

Receiving top-shelf training and guidance through undergraduate studies in journalism, the writing career I’d envisioned since grade school got launched, first as a general-assignment reporter at a newspaper, followed by a series of posts in government, PR agencies, corporate communications, and finally in my own practice, which is about to begin its 19th year shortly.

Along the way, attitudes and observations about the writing life have been collected.  Like the engineer at a company who, after raking me over the coals for a magazine article I’d written about his project, pointed to the wall of his office and said, “You see that diploma?  That means I’m an engineer with a master’s degree.  That takes a lot of study and skill.  But anybody can be a writer.”

The fact that his jaw remained unbroken stands as testament to my Herculean self-control.  None – not one – of his edits were made to the story.  Jackass.

The fact is, no, not anybody can be a writer.  This craft requires a lot of study and skill, too.  But more than that, I think.  Writers may be made in some instances.  But I think in more instances – the ones where they truly flourish – writers are born.  You have to love it because it’s who you are.  It’s like you almost can’t help it.  You want to write, you need to write, you love to write.

I have made a living and raised a family through writing.  Working with so many treasured clients means no day resembles the next.  I’ve been blessed to be able to meet and support and become friends with so many people over the years through writing.  It has been the doorway to a wonderful professional and personal life.

One might think that, after writing all day to earn a living, some other activity would be the go-to for relaxation and enjoyment.  And yes, sometimes I’ll wander down to the basement and whale away on the drums for a while.  But more often, I stay right here at the keyboard.  In fact, writing this weekly blog is one of the things I look forward to the most.

I’ve told my son for years that, “If you can write, you can eat.”  The world lacks truly skilled, enthusiastic, talented writers, perhaps these days more than ever.  Take a stroll through the miasma of sloppy, errant, syntax-allergic writing on the Internet and you’ll see what I mean.  I’m so proud to say that he has put his journalism degree to work, as I did, working as a professional writer today.

A while back, I came across a piece that crystallized my sentiments about the writing life, both as a way to make a living and a way to live a life.  I share it here with you:

“The joy of being a writer must come from your satisfaction with the work.  Some people might say only a blockhead would write for anything but money.  But they have it exactly backward.  Only a blockhead would think money’s the point.  The writing life is the thing.”

The writing life is the thing, indeed.  My hope is that you have found, or will find, the life that fills yours the way the writing life has filled mine.

Copyright 2018 Timothy P. Hayes