Do readers care why writers write? One time at a writer conference, that question was asked and an overwhelming response was, “I write because I HAVE to write, it’s compulsion, I must write…” And an agent on the panel responded, “They have medication for that now.”
My audience doesn’t read. Well, unless you count Magical-Dawg (and his canine compadres) chewing up or (ahem) “being creative” on paper. And of course, cats “read” by sitting on top of the words and absorbing the text through their furry nether regions.
Yvonne DiVita tagged me recently in the “Why I Write” blog hop. I know Yvonne through the terrific BlogPaws.com organization she co-founded, but Yvonne also blogs at Lipsticking.com where she answer the question #BecauseIAmWhoIAm Why I Write. The blog hop started on Susan C Foster’s site and continues here, today.
HOW I BECAME AN ACCIDENTAL PET WRITER
Nope, I never planned to be a “pet writer” but I am so glad this happened! As many of my colleagues (including Yvonne) confess, I began writing as a child. My first book was written when I was in fourth grade, a story about a heroic dog named Bounce that I illustrated, created a cardboard cover and bound with a shoelace. I’ll admit, the story had many similarities to Beautiful Joe and Black Beauty but with a Sheltie instead. (Yes, we had a Sheltie at the time). During those years, I read pretty much every mystery novel, dog and horse book in the school library–there weren’t many cat books, as I recall, other than The Three Lives of Thomasina.
My twin brother was the writer in the family–he’s still a much better writer than me. Oh, I enjoyed writing short stories and angst-filled (bad!) poetry, but never considered writing as a career. I focused on music, art and theater during my high school and college years.
That all changed when I got married and we moved to a small town with virtually no TV reception and few jobs to be found. When a new animal clinic opened, I got a job as the vet tech, and shared some of the funny, amazing, and moving stories about work with my Mom. She told me I should write them down. So I did.
WHY I WRITE, REASON #1
Actually, I was bored (no TV, no theater to perform, no close friends in a strange new place), and used the time to write my first book, a collection of personal experience stories. But nobody wanted to publish the book.
WHY I WRITE, REASON #2
I was stubborn, and hated rejection so I kept trying and trying and trying. There’s a bit of masochism in every successful writer, I believe. Eventually, I broke up the chapters and submitted them as separate articles to the “pet press.” A Dog Fancy magazine editor took pity on my awkward prose, told me why it was rejected, and she basically coached me until my first sale to the magazine. That launched my pet writing career.
WHY I WRITE, REASON #3
Working for veterinarians, I learned so much–and even more, I learned how much I didn’t know, and what questions to ask. I also learned how to explain technical “medicalese schtuff” to pet parents in easily understood language. My focus became writing to empower pet parents to make informed decisions for their pets.
WHY I WRITE, REASON #4 & #5
During these early years, publishing articles paid very little and as young marrieds, income was a major concern. I’m going to date myself here–there was no Internet or submission by email. Snail mail costs of sending physical manuscripts (especially book-length material) with SASE for return of rejected material added up. Each time a rejection came back, I questioned should I be wasting my time and energy, and spending household funds and gamble on a dream that might never happen.
So initially that stubbornness reared its head again and I wrote to get paid, to prove to myself I wasn’t wasting my time. The occasional acceptance contract and small check arrived, rewarding my effort, and a funny thing happened. Each time I saw my byline in the magazine, oh my heavens! That made all the effort and angst worth far more than the income. I realized that I’m pretty good at this writing gig, and when I finally was able to “own” the title that I AM A WRITER, I discovered that writing validates my sense of self worth.
Admitting not just to myself and my close friends, but to the world at large that I AM A WRITER opened up a world of opportunity to me. Perhaps it was a difference in confidence, or the years of practice began to pay off, or I’d developed more professionally relationships–or all of the above. In any event, editors began to call me with assignments, and even books. Who’da thunk it?
WHY I WRITE, REASON MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL
Writers as a breed tend to sit alone, composing in our minds as we sit in the small spaces we’ve carved out of our homes for such purpose. Before the Internet, writers and authors were even less connected with each other, and even further separated from our readers. As I said in the opening, my audience is cats and dogs, and from them a writer gets little feedback. Ah…but from the pet parents, now with this blog, with Facebook and Twitter and other inter-connected-icity, we’re able to have actual conversations. The barrier is gone, HALLELUJIA! What a joy to hear from readers who appreciate the virtual scribbles, and learn from them about their own furry wonders.
At a book signing event a year or so ago, a couple introduced themselves after recognizing one of the books at my table. They already had a copy of the book, and didn’t want an autographed, but only to tell me that the first aid advice had saved their dog’s life. I still get choked up writing that…
I write hoping my work will have a positive impact.
Today, I write in a variety of venues: newspaper column, online articles, blogs, Ebooks, audiobooks, print books, nonfiction and fiction, and I’ve combined my love of of music and theater with my pet passion in a musical production with cats and dogs as the actors.
What about you? Do you have a passion for writing, or a particular cause you champion? Is it to make a living? Please share!
Now it’s my pleasure to tag the next three people in the blog hop.
Carol Bryant is a well known and successful blogger, freelance pet writer and social media expert also affiliated with BlogPaws.com. She authors one of my favorite blogs Fidose of Reality. Carol writes about dog health and lifestyle (among other pet-centric topics) and creates some of the most unique and fun promotions and campaigns. Read one blog–and you’ll get hooked on the bark-alicious content and be inspired in your own writing!
Dr. Lorie Huston is a veterinarian and freelance pet writer specializing in …well, all things pets! She is the current president of the Cat Writers Association, and among other things, writes the award wining online pet-zine Pet Health Care Gazette. I just recently learned we have music and playing cello in common–what is it with pets, writers and music? Dr. Lorie should be one of your go-to destinations whenever you have a pet health question.
I’ve known Carol Shenold for nearly 20 years. We originally met in a writers group, and became fast friends and continue to be critique partners particularly with our fiction. Carol is a nurse and writes continuing education courses, articles and books for the profession; and specializes in spooky mysteries and intriguing urban fantasy fiction. She’s recently retired, giving her more time to play with the fur-kids and write, and I’m tagging her to encourage Carol to blog some more here –because she’s got a lot to share!
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