It takes little effort to look at someone of high stature and think, ‘Wow, they have it easy!’ or ‘They have it all!’
We might see the fancy cars and the material gains of their success. The part we tend to overlook, however, is what they went through to put themselves in that position. Most importantly, we can become envious. Then, we think about the things we don’t have – or tease ourselves while looking at everything money can buy.
No one truly knew who I was before I started to write. No one knew what was underneath the veil of my cerebral palsy – and many people didn’t take the time to look. In fact, there were times when I thought writing was one of the few things to help me feel normal. It would be foolish to try to convince myself or anyone else I still don’t feel that way sometimes.
It became obvious to me writing is “a lonely profession”, as one of my English professors at Penn State Altoona called it. I didn’t have any friends who were writers years ago when I decided I wanted to do this for the rest of life.
My list has grown since, even though writer friends are still hard to come by.
I also found out rather quickly there are no shortcuts or handouts in this line of work, which fit my lifestyle perfectly. There was also a lot of rejection – from editors, publishers, and others within the writing industry. I began to think it was because I was writing about disability on a deeper, larger scale, but again quickly learned about the very big role rejection plays in being a writer.
As I submitted my work to various publications, including book publishers, I started spending eight hours a day on my computer. It ended up being the equivalent of a full-time job – considering the fact it takes double the time and energy for me to get things done due to my cerebral palsy.
Nonetheless, I kept my pace heading into the end of 2014. I was writing for The Good Men Project as well The Huffington Post while still staying on time with my local column for The Altoona Mirror. I’ve always felt as if each publication that I’ve been fortunate enough to write for, prepared me for whatever came next. Now, it wasn’t simply in my head. I was seeing proof that everything I did or wrote was a stepping stone to something bigger.
It got to the point where I actually had a schedule to follow and commitments to keep. One of the biggest things I wanted now, was for those who read my work to know that being a writer is always a process and a tedious one. My friends and family were well aware. They knew I was aiming to get my career where I wanted it to be, but I sometimes felt like they were the only ones who truly understood why I gave up so much of my free time.
I also wanted people to realize I wasn’t going away. I wasn’t going to stop writing, even if no one was reading what I wrote because I still wanted to help someone by telling my stories. Most importantly, I hoped readers understood I didn’t become a writer for fame or fortune. Nor because it was seemingly the only job I was qualified for. I stuck with it because I simply love to write.
All of this is still important to me. It’s still the backbone of why I do what I do. If anything, I hope others recognize and appreciate it as much as I do. Things began to shift as my readership grew on a local and national basis. The more work I put out into the world, the more it seemed like readers understood where I was coming from as a writer. More importantly, it felt like they not only embraced me but also accepted my perspective.
That didn’t happen overnight. Neither did my ability to live the life of a writer. There was the writing aspect – the most obvious part. Then, there was the responsibility of not only finding a routine but also sticking to it as more deadlines came my way. Readers started to catch on to the fact I wasn’t just sitting and writing. I was researching, checking my facts and doing whatever needed to be done before anything with my name on it got accepted for publication.
It was now October 2014. I was working on an article fairly late at night when I received an e-mail. Cameron, who had served as Social Justice Editor at The Good Men Project upon hiring me, decided to step down and move forward with his career. I was shocked because Cameron is one of the most dedicated people I’ve had the privilege of working for. I took a deep breath, trying to process this overwhelming news. Just as I came back to reality, I read this line in the e-mail:
We are looking for someone to fill Cameron’s position.
I lost my breath for a moment. I immediately wanted to put myself in the conversation, but I also wanted to be respectful. I knew how much attention and care Cameron brought to the position, and I didn’t want to tarnish the mark he had left. My next career move would not only give me the opportunity to gain longevity but also set the stage for life as I know it today.
When things become difficult, appreciate the challenge. Be grateful for the pain, tears, and the joy. Embrace it all because moments like this eventually turn into motivation.
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