Guest Post by, Lisa Magoch Johnson
There is no one moment when I said, “I want to be a writer.” There were many little moments leading up to it. At six, I kept a book of poems I wrote, until I got bored and couldn’t come up with anything original. At 11, I wrote a crime story in class and my passion was sparked by the A+ I got on the paper. At 13, I was writing fan fiction about The Monkees. At 14 and 15, I came up with two novels I wanted to write. Yet, I wasn’t a writer. I wanted to be everything from a nurse to a nun to a jockey (even though I’m a bit nervous around horses).
One of the few pieces of advice my dad gave me, that proved to be bad, was, “Have a backup plan.” Because of this, I skipped over Plan A and went to the back up plan, instead. I didn’t pursue my writing career by getting a Communications degree. I started a degree in something else, which ended when I got sidetracked.
At 19, I got married. At 21, had my first baby. Every once in a while, I would sit down and start writing that last novel, have great ideas, then stop. I would wake up in the morning, with the idea of writing this amazing novel, only to see one of my babies looking at me with a, “You aren’t getting that done, today,” look.
The turning point wasn’t about the novel. It ended up being abut the writing process. It took years to realize it wasn’t about becoming the next Tolkien. I just needed to give myself permission to write anything. That permission finally came, because of Jim.
In 2007, I started working at a local concert venue called the Celebrity Theatre. It’s one of only six theatres in the U.S. built “in the round”. It’s a small venue, fun to visit, and even more fun to work at. I spent nearly every weekend listening to music, learning about people, and feeling like I had a second family among my co-workers.
Then, there was Jim. Jim was the backstage manager. When he spoke it was like listening to Reverand Jim, from Taxi. Only, he wasn’t stupid. He was very intelligent and he had many stories to tell. Every evening he passed through the Club doors and we exchanged pleasantries. Soon, it turned to hugs. Then, one day, I found out Jim wasn’t coming back. He was in hospital on life support.
Nine months, later, on New Year’s Eve, 2010, he walked through the Club doors, as a guest. The few moments I spent talking to him is why I am a writer, today.
A few weeks, earlier, I bought myself two books, Peter Bowerman’s Well Fed Writer and Robert Bly’s Secrets of a Freelance Writer. I went back and forth about whether it was a better idea to be sensible, keep working at the theatre and write on the side, or if I should throw all caution to the wind and launch a business.
When Jim walked through my door, that night, those thoughts weren’t the foremost on my mind. I was caught up in the excitement of the evening and seeing old co-workers and friends. I hugged Jim, kissed his cheek, and told him how excited I was to see him. When he left, his final words to me weren’t, “Happy New Year”. They were, “May all your dreams come true this year.”
Those are the words that made my decision. At that moment, I knew it was time to leave the theatre and pursue the dream I had put aside for so long.
After that, I bothered friends to hire me for small projects. Then, I emailed businesses to hire me for larger projects. When I tell people I’m a writer, the first question is always, “What books have you written?”
I still haven’t finished a novel or published a book. I have ghostwritten blogs and articles for businesses, written magazine articles, and found out I like writing about other people’s lives more than I ever enjoyed attempting to write that novel.
Every New Year, I remember Jim and those last words. (He died three months, later). One sentence. Eight words. They changed my life and keep me motivated.
Lisa Magoch Johnson is a freelance writer and homeschooling mother from Arizona. She is currently working on The Being Artemis Project, which was created to help women and girls with their self esteem and realize their full potential of who they want to be
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