My last few years have felt like when the roof of my mouth burns after I eat an Indian vindaloo, or like the moment following throwing up after teaching a friend about Maker’s Mark bourbon– part terror, part pain, part fear. I left my 9-5 applied research job at a large DC research non-profit when the project on which I was working shrank due to funding cuts. I jumped with both feet into independent consulting and writing the memoir that had been on my heart for years.
I had been rehearsing the writer’s life for some time. I did everything I could to write while also keeping my day job. I took virtual and face-to-face writing classes. I participated in several writing groups. I voraciously read books on writing. I built research databases that required I abstract piles of literature. I published articles, research briefs, and policy papers. I began blogging and writing web content at work. I attended artist retreats. Though producing many words, I did not quite have the words to claim being a writer.
I had completed two academic writing tasks at that point, so I had a certain amount of interest and ability with respect to taking on, and completing, writing tasks. Both my thesis and dissertation allowed me to investigate ideas about which I cared deeply. That made the writing possible. Dissecting processes by which young artists can become open to and capable of creatively exploring the world was the heart of both works. As I write this now, that question is still my pulse.
My writing path has not been linear – I suspect they never are. My writing path has not been solitary – I thrive on conversation. I know that reading is the foundation of good writing. I am now gentler on early drafts.