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 dogs and cats 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 years ago in the “Why I Write” blog hop. I know Yvonne through the terrific BlogPaws.com organization she co-founded, but today you’ll find Yvonne at NurturingBigIdeas. As I updated several out-of-date blog posts, I found this one as true today as when first written more than a decade ago. I talk more about my writer’s journey at my website, but here’s the crib notes. *s*
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 from working in the vet clnic. 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 she rejected it. 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 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, 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 couple introduced themselves after recognizing my pet first aid book at my table. They already had a copy of the book, and didn’t want an autographed. No, they just wanted 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. I believe a happier world starts with healthy, joyful pets. So today, I write to help scaredy-cat pet lovers wag up their confidence with genius home care advice that banishes insecurity while improving pet relationships with award-winning books.
What about you? Do you have a passion for writing, or a particular cause you champion? Is it to make a living? Please share!
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!
Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!