I began writing professionally 50 years ago this month

I love to write. I always have, and I’ve been lucky enough to get paid to do it.

My first job was a small but steady gig: I covered my high school for the local suburban newspaper. I took the work seriously and did my best, clattering out “Rocket Report” columns (our high school mascot was a rocket) on my manual typewriter. From what I recall, my writing might have been a little wooden and my interview skills needed some polishing, but I met deadlines and turned in usable prose. That’s all it takes to keep an editor happy, I learned.

After I graduated from high school, I studied writing and journalism in college. From there, I moved on to a career of writing and editing small newspapers and magazines as staff or as a freelancer, as well as working in writing-related jobs, such as newsletter editor for small organizations. I began writing fiction in the early 1990s.

A half-century at the keyboard has taught me a few things:

Writing is a long lesson in humility. I’ve made enormous mistakes — so big that I don’t want to mention them. I will no doubt keep making mistakes. I’ve learned that it’s always possible to fail to write what I meant to say, and to write something I had no idea I was actually saying. It’s also possible to make monumentally unfortunate typos.

Writing is a long lesson in discovery and joy. I once heard journalism defined as going to the most interesting places, watching the most interesting events, talking to the most interesting people, and then all you have to do is write about it. I’ve seen and done all sorts of interesting things.

I’ve been kissed by a llama, reported on a serial killer, watched children discover the power of art, talked to basket weavers, bird watchers, historians, and housewives, and found out how governments work and buildings are managed. Although I’ve observed that people lie a lot, they also tell the truth — happily, desperately, kindly, maliciously, and surprisingly. Adverbs might be what secretly makes the world go ‘round because they explain how the world goes ‘round.

I’ve met people of every possible adverb, and people empower every form of writing. These days I not only meet people, I create imaginary people for fiction. I never run out of things to say about them and the worlds where they live, real and imaginary.

Sometimes I’ve had work that did not involve writing, but when I’m writing, it’s not work, it’s the energy of discovery and joy. There’s always more to learn. So far, I’ve been lucky for a full half-century.

4 thoughts on “I began writing professionally 50 years ago this month

  1. Congratulations on 50yrs of doing what you love. I always enjoy reading what you write. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your adverbs. Hope you enjoy a few more decades of writing.


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