Today I received an email from a high school student who had some questions about the writing life.
How do you gain inspiration and motivation to write?
My motivation and inspiration are directly connected to discipline. I get up very early to write, and write every single day. Even if what is coming from me that day is pure drek, I write. I write with no particular expectations, and if it turns out to be good, well then so much the better. If it's not, then I hope I get the chance to wake up again tomorrow and try again.
Do you enjoy this profession?
Yes. What fascinates me about it the most is the play of language. I enjoy playing with words the same way a musician plays with rhythm, or a welder "plays" with heat. The right words, in the right order can connect people through shared feeling and experience, create change, make someone fall in love, or out of love. Words have power. I'm not particularly power hungry, but I know words are meaningful, and they matter.
What are some challenges to expect in this career?
Doubt. Fear. I'm a poet, and a playwright, and I can say that the challenges in this field are that of most creative careers. Watch out for egos getting in the way of your work (your own, and those of others). Getting work published can be like trying to win the lottery. Be persistent, and have a tough outer shell. It's ok for work to come back rejected. It happens to all writers. Send it out again when you're ready. Edits are necessary for you to grow as a writer. Pay is abysmal for poetry and plays, so if you're wanting to make your living at creative writing, write in many forms and be prepared to send work out a lot. Write all of the time, and learn from everyone you possibly can. Go to readings, classes, support your fellow writers.
Would I recommend becoming a professional creative writer?
We have to start with what "professional creative writer" means here. Does it mean published? Paid by the word? Article? I suspect it's a combination, as our culture appreciates and recognizes those things as marks of success. I recommend following what fascinates you, learning as much about it as you possibly can, paying attention to those who went ahead of you on that path, and helping those who are trying to get to where you are. Be curious, supportive, encouraging, and say yes to opportunities when they arise. See where that curiosity, determination, and dedication leads you.