The Upside Of Being A Writer
Last fall, I was smart enough to attend the SCBWI Eastern Pa Fall Fest, a two-day event focusing solely on writing for children. Day one was filled with keynote speakers (Bryan Collier’s words completely changed my outlook on why I write, but that’s another article for another time) and workshops to help advance us all in the craft of writing for children. Day two was a critique-fest, filled with insight from peers as well as agents, editors, and successful authors. I was placed in a group of authors whose main focus was on picture books. It was an immensely productive day, but also a very exhausting day as well. As day two neared the end and my critique group shared the feedback received from the editors and agents (ok, more like lamented over it), a light bulb went off and something truly uplifting occurred to me (we were all pretty worn out by this point). Instead of thinking about how long it was going to take to break into the business and become a published author, I realized how lucky we all were having chosen a career path with such potential for longevity. Don’t get me wrong, the uphill battle to get started can wear even the most determined of us out, but I’ll never forget what else happened that weekend – Allen Iverson announced his official retirement from basketball – at 37 years old.
My first job out of college was with the Philadelphia 76ers, and I was lucky enough to start the year we made it to the NBA finals against Los Angeles. I spent five fun years with the Sixers at the height of Allen’s career (yes I was there for the whole “you wanna talk about practice?” incident) and loved every minute of it. Growing up in a very athletic family, I always wondered what athletes did once their careers were over, but this particular weekend while at the SCBWI conference, it really hit home. Could you imagine spending your whole life training and practicing to land your dream job, only to reach retirement when the rest of us are just truly launching our careers? I can’t imagine spending two to three decades of my life devoting every minute to the pursuit of a dream, only to find out when you reach 35 (older if you’re lucky) that it’s time to hang up the towel. What next? Without a plan b, you’d probably end up pretty lost I’d imagine.
So here I was, whining a little bit about how an editor suggested I take my story in a direction that I wasn’t crazy about, still very much at the start of my career as a writer, while Allen Iverson (who is the same age as I am) was left with no choice but to hang up his jersey, never to be worn in a NBA game again. That’s when I realized how lucky we truly are to be writers. As long as you don’t lose your marbles, you can easily start your career at 40 and still have three to four decades of writing to look forward to. Poor Allen has the prime of his adult life ahead of him and can no longer do the one thing he loves the most. So, the next time you’re struggling and ready to throw in the towel, remember, while there are down sides to being a writer, there’s a really big upside too. 🙂