August 9, 2011

Destiny or Choice?


When my writing muse awoke from her 22-year hiatus in 2005, she did so with fierce determination to get me to write again. To explain, at 13 years old, I wrote with a childhood friend all during our school years and for ten years beyond into our careers. We grew apart both in distance and friendship and I just stopped writing.

When I think back on what kind of stories we wrote and compare them to the direction my work life took, I am amazed at the similarities.  The story themes were always good vs. evil in some fashion whether it was espionage, police, or action-adventure.  My work life fell into law enforcement.  I never yearned to be a police officer, nor planned to become one. It just happened. During my law enforcement career, I worked a variety of assignments, even with some undercover work.  If that alone was not adventurous enough, I joined the Colorado State Disaster Team and my departments Search and Rescue team, becoming an Emergency Medical Technician in the process. 

Until now, I never really made the comparison between my young writing days and my career choices. As I pondered what to write in this blog post (by the way, it is my first blog post ever), I wanted to concentrate on writing, of course, and it came to me that we so often hear the words ‘write what you know’.

 I know that the experiences and training in the law enforcement, coroner, and some medical fields have no doubt influenced my writing and its quality.  Could my early writing have influenced my career choices?  Were they really choices or was it all destiny?

I’d love to hear from others. What was the key influence in your writing or reading? Did your career influence you?

Thanks for sharing my snippet of personal insight with you.

Phyllis Middleton

33 comments:

Pamela Stone said...

Hi Phyllis, great blog. I think you both wrote and chose a career based on what you were interested in.

I too wrote as a teen and with a friend. Life happened and we grew apart simply because of lack of time to write or even get together. Writing went by the wayside for years.

My early writing was always wrapped around falling in love and making a committment. My characters' lives were certainly more exciting than mine, but bottom line, I got married and we've been together through thick and thin for many, many years. That's committment.

There is one huge difference in you and me though. I have spent 25 years in corporate America and the technology field. OMG, I write to escape corporate America. The only corporate characters in my writing are the bad guys. Ha!

Pam

Kathy Ivan said...

Great blog, Phyllis. Nobody would know it was your first one ever.

Career-wise my career more chose me rather than me choosing it. My very first job straight out of high school was at a local hospital. I was hired to work in the data processing department.

On my first day, after filling out all the paperwork and doing everything to get started, the HR manager said that someone in a different department wanted to transfer to the position I'd been hired for and would I mind switching to a different department to begin work.

Since I was such a newbie and hadn't even started and was just glad to have a job, I said sure, why not.

So instead of data processing and computers, I was swept up into the awe-inspiring world of . . . medical records!

Turned out to be a good thing for me, because I was able to learn quite a bit there and it propelled me into my job as a medical transcriptionist which I've been doing ever since. But no matter what I tried to do, I always seemed to end up with a career in the medical administrative field and always back with medical transcription. It may not be the glamour-filled spectacular life, but, hey at least I can work from home. LOL

My writing, on the other hand, has absolutely nothing in common with the day job, other than using a computer. Different as day and night.

Liz Lipperman said...

Love the blog, Phyllis. Ike some of you, I never had an ambition to write in my teen years. It was always medical stuff that drew my attention. Working as an RN for many years and raising a family with a hubby who traveled kept me pretty busy.

It wasn't until I went back to get a degree in Professional Arts that and took a Creative Writing class that the bug hit. The instructor said I was one of her most talented students.

That was the encouragement I needed. My very first story --the one that still remains the book of my heart--was about a nurse who gets kidnapped and taken to Colombia. You mentioned you should write what you know--and I did.

Liz Lipperman said...

Sheesh! I should pay more attention to Spellcheck.

Phyllis said...

Pam - Thanks for dropping by. It sounds very much like our lives were alike in the early years. I know my friend and I always would write each other's characters into impossible scenarios and hand the MS back to the other to get the characters out of the situation.

I think the writing got me through the tough teenage years for sure!


Hi Kathy....hum, so maybe the job was destiny and the writing definitely a choice. And what a great choice...like Desperate Choices….lol. Sorry, Kathy, I just couldn’t resist.

Phyllis said...

Liz - How was your imagination growing up? Were all your daydreams about the medical field?

Vicki Batman said...

I remember sitting in my elementary classroom (with no a/c) and daydreaming. Then, one day, I did an extra credit assignment: read a book and do a project. I chose to write a poem which I did for many years.

Places I've worked, people I've met seen, all of it have influenced my work. It is amazing what ignites that spark.

Thanks, Phyllis

Angelyn said...

Great post, Phyllis. Writing what you know makes so much sense. I think the muse likes it when she's on familiar ground. It's worked for me and it's worked for my critique partners.

Phyllis said...

Vicki - Thanks for the memory. It brought back an early memory for me. Long before my friend and I ever considered writing together, I remember an English Comp class in which my very first ever-writing project was a stage play about the first woman to go into space.

Lol...the project was only suppose to be several pages, but as we neared the end of the week, I already had 20 some pages done and begged the teacher to allow me to turn it in on Monday instead to that I could turn it in completed.

I laugh now as my 30 plus page play earned an A+ and I that was my first deadline!

Phyllis said...

Angelyn - I believe writing what you know validates your writing. I know some of my scenes have an actual experience mixed in and because I went through it, I can really add the emotion and sensory I had to my character. Thanks for dropping by!

chris k said...

I never gave it much thought but I guess writing chose me - LOL

Now that I stop and think about it - in my early Nancy Drew years I decided to sit down and write a mystery - Wrote the first scene.

I clearly remember describing an odd piece of furniture in great detail and thinking - well that's going to have to be key- I'll figure out what the heck it is later.

And so - a pantser was apparently born at the ripe old age of maybe 10!! lol.

At 35 I started writing my memoirs for the hell of it and finally at 45 at friend grabbed me and said - you need to do this for real- so for better or worse - I'm doing it for real !! LOL

chris k said...

by the way - I picked up a book yesterday by an author I've never heard of before

the title- Take Me Home- caught my eye because of the current demand in 'gentle fiction' for hometown series. It also caught my eye because I'm always so desperate for a good 'romantic fiction' story in this world of dead and shifting bodies. lol.

the author is Jerri Corgiat - anyone ever hear of her or read her?

Phyllis said...

Kind of funny, how my visit to the past triggered others past memories. Cool! I'm loving this1

Kathleen Baldwin said...

Wow! Phyllis! I didn't know you were a policewoman and EMT. This is cool to know. I admire strong women.

I was raised to be a writer. My mother loved to read and wanted me to write. She constantly exposed me to good literature and urged me to write poetry. She died when I was young. But my grandmothers were all fabulous storytellers.

My inspiration: strong women in my family.

Sheila Seabrook said...

I was a young mom, at home with the kids and bored out of my skull. I wanted to go back to work but my DH wanted me to stay at home until the kids were in school. One day, I engaged my sister in a discussion about what kind of job I could do at home ... and the writing career began. I have never looked back. :)

Diana Cosby said...

Hi Phyllis,
Enjoyable blog! :) My love of writing comes from my love of reading. As for my stories, my travels throughout life - I'm on move #33 - with the various cultures I've experience, have influenced the stories I pen. Wishing you every success!

Phyllis said...

Thanks, Kat.
I suspect my ‘strength’ came from a harrowing incident when I was 10 years old. You know the saying, “that which does not kills you, makes you stronger” or something like that paraphrased…lol. I can attribute more incidents as a cop where that saying really fits in. Each time, coming out of the smoke being stronger than before.

I think it is great that you were raised to have wonderful stories always surrounding you. Were they any particular books that would trigger daydreams?



Sheila,
Ah, to be able to stay home! That is a grand opportunity. I’m so glad you were able to do it You know, many authors got started that way and I cheer them on! Thank you!

Phyllis said...

Wow, Diana - 33 moves! You no doubt have met some of the most unique people and intriguing places. So much inspiration to draw upon indeed!

Phyllis said...

Chris,

I really admire people who can write memoirs. When I sit back and think about writing about my life, I freeze in my tracks.

Now I can write "someone else" in my circumstances, but it won't come out any other way.

Did the piece of furniture ever go beyond that scene?

Linda Steinberg said...

Hi, Phyllis

Interesting blog which inspired a lot of comments.

I was writing a lot at age seven--mostly poetry--but as I got further on in school, writing nonfiction papers took over the time and space for creative writing. But, apparently not imagining. While I was supposed to be prepping to represent our school in the national spelling bee, a classmate and I made up stories about an imaginary friend, a cute boy, of course.

I continued just making up stories for myself about a romantic male character, on into adulthood. Until one day, when I was living in Nigeria and bored during the day, the story took the form of prose and I started writing it down. When I'd purchased all the notepaper available at the local "mall" I borrowed my husband's computer and started typing it. 600 single spaced pages. Yeesh!

So I guess writing chose me. In my final career as an accountant, I exercised my right brain daily, so, like Pamela Stone, I found joy and escape in the left-brain activity of writing.

Or do I have the brains reversed?

Linda

Phyllis said...

Linda,
Don’t you just LOVE those imaginary men!
Amazing how they get us through tough times in life and inspire us to create a world for them.

I never remember which side of the brain does what…just glad both sides work…lol

jeff7salter said...

I've written since grade school (beginning with ditties and little 'stories) and have never really stopped writing because my career in library administration always had me writing documentation or reports or manuals, etc. I've spend over 5 decades writing poetry and when I took an early retirement from the lib. world, I figured I'd grow old with new poems.
But I was surprised to find there were novels buried inside me: 7 complete novel ms in the past 5 years. None published yet, but I'm hopeful.
During my library years, I had a few long spells when the creative muse seemed to have abandoned me. But as I'm now figuring out, the muse didn't leave completely ... she just hibernated. Now she's wide awake!

Phyllis said...

Jeff,
You were also surrounded by great stories. How awesome to have that history. What do you write? What type of stories comes from your imagination? Your “not published yet” will turn into “getting the call” as long as you persevere and keep submitting.

Kathy Bennett said...

Hi Phyllis!

My key influences into writing were my first ever 'big girl' books - Trixie Belden. There was always a mystery for Trixie and her friend Honey Wheeler to solve.

That was the beginning, then came along Dragnet and the rest is history.

As an adult, I became a cop and solved crimes. Now retired from law enforcement, I write about murder and mayhem.

It all started with Trixie.

Michelle Miles said...

Great first blog post, Phyllis! I couldn't say that my "career" choice has influenced my writing. I'm an admin type person and there's really nothing interesting about that. But I can say that I was greatly influenced by movies - specifically action movies (Indiana Jones). I loved the idea of great adventure and falling in love. Some of the first stories I ever wrote were fan-fiction (I wrote and illustrated my own Indiana Jones comic books with my best friend). Eventually, I started writing romance and finally got serious about it when I joined RWA in 2004. Best decision ever. :)

Phyllis said...

Hey Kathy,

Trixie Belden huh?

Yeah, I remember those days of Dragnet and Adam 12. I was a serious follower if “Policewoman” in the late 1970’s. I’d already been in the business for a number of years back then. I even wrote a “Policewoman” screenplay and sent it in. I thought I’d try it since the writers and I were on a mail (remember, no email back then) communications basis. Well, they couldn’t take the manuscript because I was not a SAG member, but I received a personal invitation to the set and I took it. I had a blast on the set.

BTW, Congrats on your debut book, “Dozen Deadly Roses”.

Phyllis said...

Hey Michele,

Thanks. Don’t you just love fan fiction? I wrote some Star Trek fan fiction. Yeah…into that too. I love the Indiana Jones series. I am also a huge fan of the action adventure genre. I’m more of a find love during a disaster type of gal.

jeff7salter said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Phyllis. My 7 novel ms. include two screwball romantic comedies, one comedic romance, and one romantic suspense. The other three do not fit neatly into categories. An agent has had a 'full' of my 4th ms. for 15 months and I haven't heard from her since Jan.
Two small publishers turned down ms. # 6. I'm about to start queries for ms. 7.
I'm published in non-fiction and poetry, plus articles (had a short career in journalism before the library work).
Yeah, being surrounded by literature was a big draw for me to go to Lib. school.

Karilyn Bentley said...

Hi Phyllis,
Great blog! I loved to make up stories as a kid, usually similar to the Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon series that I read. My favs to read were mysteries and fantasy. I write fantasy/paranormal now. Always had an interest in the paranormal, in ghosts and things that go bump in the night. This has nothing to do with my career as a clinical research coordinator though. :)

Phyllis said...

Hey Jeff - you are further along in your writing and getting published than I. Congrats and keep going!

Phyllis said...

Karilyn,
I liked Nancy Drew, but my favorite thing was play acting cops and robbers and army. It seems like there is a huge following in fantasy/paranormal. I admit I’m lost in that area, except for Harry Potter. So what are you writing? Vampires, werewolf, shape shifter or ghosts?

I personally can’t handle the things that go bump in the night. That sort of thing really bugs me. I can’t sit through a movie or finish a book if it raises the hairs on the back of my neck. Lol….but I can go into a dark warehouse with an armed suspect hiding somewhere in there to ambush me. How is that for weird?

Phyllis said...

My fellow writers,

Thank you for spending the day with me. I had fun, however,I am calling it a night.

Happy Writing!

Anonymous said...

Hi Phyllis,
Great subject. I was a late bloomer as a writer. I've always been an avid reader since my fourth grade teacher introduced me to LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. I read every single one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books. Then I read my first romance, THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER and have been reading romances ever since.

During a difficult time in my life, I read a romance and decided I could do a better job. I bought an old typewriter and began to write my first book. I still have that HORRIBLE first book in my closet to remind me how far I've come. Since then I've written 15 books and sold nine of them.

As many of you know, I've had a long dry-spell between contracts. But during this time, I've come to the realization that I am addicted to writing. I'm the happiest when I'm working on a new story or plotting my next one or just trying to get my pages done for the day. Even if I never sell another book, I can't stop writing. I may not be a great writer, but I'm a good storyteller, who will leave a closet full of manuscripts to my grand-kids to deal with when I'm gone. So for me it's both a destiny and a choice.