I have a speaking engagement coming up tomorrow in front of a tough audience.
Elementary school students.
It’s Career Day and I was invited to an Elementary School in Maryland, along with lots of people who likely have much more exciting careers than mine. I’ll have just 10 minutes per group to talk about what I do and answer questions.
I’m in a quandary about what I should tell them.
Writing is pretty boring. At least the act of it.
Unless you’re inside my brain, I appear awfully sedentary. Most days I bore my office mates to sleep.
So, what should I tell the kids?
Obviously, they’ll find my dog writing much more interesting than my women’s fiction writing or my occasional freelance pieces about parenting or organics or writing. They probably know more than me about marketing yourself via social media. And I’m pretty sure that talking about the largest part of my writing day – editing – would bore the life out of them, as it does me.
My tentative plan is to dazzle them with the dogs. I’ve even printed out a few 8x10s of some of my more exciting foster dogs to flash them.
My biggest dog- Whoopi.
My smallest dog – Okeriette.
My largest litter – Edith’s Wharton’s Darling Dozen
My most famous litter – The Hamilton Pups
And my foster from furthest away – Momma Bear from Iraq.
But what do dogs have to do with my career as a writer?
These days, dogs have everything to do as my days are consumed with preparing to launch my memoir (8/8/18, Pegasus Books).
So, building on the success of my dog-writing, I can tell them that the best kind of writing comes from your heart.
Write about what you love and the words will come easy.
But do I have to also tell them that to make any money at writing, you will more likely have to write about things you don’t care about and aren’t interested in?
If this were a high school or college audience, I’d feel compelled to share that, but these are little kids. Maybe it’s okay to let them dream of writing about what they love, whether its unicorns or minecraft.
Maybe it’s okay to let them think they can spend their days with dogs and their laptop and a peanut butter sandwich.
After a lot of thought, here’s what I’ve decided to tell them:
Being a writer is fun. You can work in your pajamas and hang out with dogs. You get to spend hours and hours telling stories, making up people, and using your imagination.
Being a writer is hard. You have to write, even when you don’t feel like it and aren’t sure you have anything to say. You have to learn grammar and spelling and read LOTS of books. You may have to ask questions of strangers. You also have to be able to type without looking at the keys.
Being a writer is boring. Sometimes, okay, many times, you have to write what other people want you to write (especially if you are interested in making any money). You’ll spend a lot of days alone. You’ll have to do research and get all the tiny details right, take notes, and you’ll have to read the same thing over and over and over again and fix all the mistakes.
Being a writer makes you powerful. The ability to write clearly what you think gives you a tool for making your opinions known. Well-written words are shared again and again, maybe beyond your lifetime. They can make people laugh and cry. Words can make people think and act differently. Words can change the world.
Hence, if you like dogs, prefer to wear jammies, like to tell stories, know how to type, and want to change the world, be a writer.
I think I’m ready for career day.
How about you– what would you tell elementary students about your job?
Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.
If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.
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If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.