Ellen Ritscher Sackett
Meet Guest Blogger Ellen Sackett. She thinks becoming a writer is pretty simple. After reading what she has to say, you might agree.
Writing as My Second Career
By Ellen Ritscher Sackett
One day I decided to be a writer. It was pretty much that simple. This decision came about following a painful transition in my life away from my previous career after many years of severe burnout. I needed a new passion. At that time, I wasn’t yet clear on where my next path would take me, but I figured I was smart. Something would work out.
The natural next step of perusing job ads turned up big fat zeros. My two college degrees were in music, for Pete’s sake. My education didn’t prepare me for anything else — or did it? Those thousands of dollars in tuition and years of crafting term papers had to count for something.
At least I can write, I thought.
So just like that, I decided I was a writer, and I would do what professional writers do. I bought a bunch of books that would tell me how to go about it. I also took a few online classes and joined a writer’s group. I didn’t say to myself, “Someday I am going to be a writer,” or, “I hope I can do this.” Nope. I was a writer. It was a fact.
Around that same time, I had a date with a sweet guy who dreamed of being a writer. He spent big bucks on a weekly meetings and attended weekend retreats with a writing coach.”She is just wonderful,” he said. “The best.” So I asked him, “What kinds of things do you write about?” He stared at me for a moment, looking perplexed. “Why, nothing,” he said. “That’s why I talk to her. To figure that out.”
Purging myself of awful prose that could be easily erased or deleted later seemed better than therapy and, in my opinion, was time better spent. Reading books, taking classes and seeking advice is important — I get that — but in their proper time and place. Nothing can replace the actual physical act of getting thoughts out of one’s head and forming them into words.
Here’s a not-so-secret secret: Writing is much easier when one has something to say. Initially, food was my favorite subject. I started a blog and wrote restaurant reviews. Food writing as a profession piqued my interest, but I discovered that most food writers worth their salt also know quite a bit about food preparation. While I’m not a highly skilled cook, the blog served my purposes well. It gave me a creative outlet and a way to share my writing. The ultimate compliment was when readers would say, “Boy, that really made me hungry!” Then I knew I had made a connection with them through my words, and that was more satisfying than any meal.
My second career path has been far from straight. Fast forward through several years of freelancing, working for newspapers, improving my skills and shouldering many, many disappointments. It all added up to experience, and I eventually got there. I mean, here.
Mind you, I didn’t achieve my goals of becoming a professional writer and magazine editor without lots of support, for which I am deeply grateful. There were also some genuinely concerned folks who expressed doubts about my choices, and I thank them, too, for giving me additional perspectives to consider. But I never once doubted myself. As corny and as cliché as this may sound, faith and determination have kept me on track.
I’d be lying if I said being a writer is easy because it’s not. But for me, deciding to be a writer really is as simple as that.