SO, YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER – PART NINE
Even though I have had seven books published, provided research assistance with several others, written hundred of feature articles, and even wrote a monthly column for a major automotive publication, it seems odd to have people ask for an autograph, or ask me to sign a book, magazine, or t-shirt. I am unsure if this disconnect in perception is the result of the fact I still have a day job that supports the writing habit, the fact that I just don’t see myself as a celebrity, or a little of both.
Perhaps the most enjoyable and most humorous aspect of this “celebrity” status are the questions people ask. I find them enjoyable because these questions provide an opportunity for me to give struggling authors a bit of encouragement and on occasion, a leg up.
The humor is derived from questions that reflect the naivete about the world of the published author that I once had. As an example, about twenty years ago I wrote a weekly travel column for the Kingman Daily Miner, the local paper.
I lost count how many times people would express envy for my being paid to travel to all of these wonderful places. Seldom did I have the heart to tell them my financial compensation for these articles was $20.00 per week.
My primary catalyst for writing these articles, as well as all of my other published work, was a passion to share with others. Financial compensation was and is nice, and at some point it is my dream to be a writer when I grow up. However, the greatest reward is from letters and comments reflecting enjoyment derived from what I write.
It may seem a somewhat simplistic view but I adhere to the belief that if you have been blessed with a gift or talent, there is an obligation to use it. Financial compensation is nice but it can not be the only motivating factor.
Aside from the pleasure derived from being able to help and entertain others, writing has provided me with wonderful opportunities for travel. Additionally, it has served as introduction to wonderful and fascinating people.
A gift for writing and a passion for sharing with others are the first prerequisites for becoming an author. There are two more attributes that are equally as important – a very well developed sense of humor and a thick hide.
Examples of the reason for the latter dominate my career as a published author. Case in point, several years ago an odd series of coincidences led to some work for United Airlines. Compensation for what amounted to about two hours worth of work were three round trip airline tickets (my son, wife, and I).
The catch was that I had but three choices for the destination; L.A., Portland, or San Francisco. Well, as I had always wanted to introduce my dearest friend to the charms of the city by the bay, this seemed like an awesome opportunity.
|Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California|
The long and short of the story is this, the almost free trip to San Francisco ended up costing more than $1,000 (rental car, hotel, food, etc.). A year later we drove up the coast from Santa Monica to San Francisco and the week set us back a mere $800.
Still, writing has been one of the most rewarding endeavors for me. Through it I have met some of the most delightful people and colorful characters, been provided the opportunity to travel to interesting places, and through the research associated with this writing, learned so many fascinating things. It has been and is a grand adventure.
Still, it is not all roses without thorns or an endless supply of hangover free beer. It is fraught will all manner of frustration.
Consider just the Route 66 related projects of the past few years. Being awarded the contract to write Ghost Towns of Route 66 provided me with the opportunity for fascinating research and a chance to add context as well as depth to the overall Route 66 experience for fans of that highway.
For almost a year, most evenings after work, as well as a countless number of weekends, were spent deep in research or at the computer typing until my fingers were numb and the eyes burned. Meanwhile, needed vehicle repairs and maintenance, home repairs, and similar things were put on the back burner resulting in a sort of snow ball affect.
Initial financial compensation for the project almost covered the expenses incurred in the travel to often overlooked segments of Route 66. But, this travel, and the book itself led to meeting fascinating people such as Laurel Kane at Afton Station, Michael Wallis, Melba at 4 Women on the Route, folks from New Zealand and Australia traveling with Dale Butel, and folks from Europe traveling with Dries Bessels.
The success of Route 66 titles (the book is now in a third printing) provided the publisher with incentive to approve my proposal for a Route 66 encyclopedia, the current project that never seems to end. Well, this consumed another 18 months with travel, with writing, and with research, and compensated us with additional opportunities for travel, for exploration, for renewing acquaintances, and for meeting new fans of legendary Route 66.
It also provided new and previously unimaginable levels of frustration. Where in the world was I going to find information about the motel in Jericho or Endee? How was I going to squeeze a trip to Chicago into just 9.5 days? Does anyone have information about Johnson’s Cafe in Arlington, Missouri in 1940?
These and similar frustrations were merely the prelude. After receipt of the proposed illustration list for the Route 66 encyclopedia, I spent three weeks writing 20,000 words in captions. Then, on Tuesday, the day our new granddaughter arrived in the world, I received a new list as the decision had been made to add a few illustrations and cull some others.
So, my celebration of completion was just a bit premature. And now I will again be writing captions for the next week or so.
So, you want to be a writer.