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“What if you hadn’t become a writer?”

Thirty five years ago this week, I decided to become a writer. From the moment I made the decision, the path opened up for me. I met Darlene Loiler, the high school English teacher who inspired me to pursue writing. I joined my school’s creative writing magazine and newspaper. The decision led me to a successful career as a technical writer, computer journalist, speechwriter, and novelist. It also led me to Orange County where I met my wife and started a family. Becoming a writer was the best decision I ever made, and it has given me a satisfying and happy life.

But what if the path led down another direction or wound up being a dead end? What if I hadn’t become a writer?

Regardless of which career I chose, I would still write. There isn’t a career that doesn’t require a person to write. If I had gone with my first career choice and became a lawyer (well, it was my parents’ first choice), I’d have to write briefs, courtroom presentations, contracts, and other legal documents. After my mom’s stroke, I considered accounting as a more practical career choice. Although accounting is for number people (which I’m not), I would still need to write audit documents and letters to clients, banks, and tax agencies. Even if I remained working in fast food, I’d still have to fill out job applications and write letters and reports. Regardless of which career I chose, I still would have been a writer.

This includes being a creative writer. I would find time to write my novels and scripts. I do that now with my technical writing job. After spending a day telling users how to connect their MFP using HTTPS to an SMTP email server, I need to exercise the creative part of my brain. I would do the same if my 9-to-5 (or 5-to-9 or 24/7) were something else.

I learned from watching my father that if you don’t do what you love, you will be frustrated, unfocused, and unhappy. You won’t be faithful to others because you aren’t faithful to yourself. And your life will likely become shortened because you feel there is nothing to live for. This is why “following your bliss” and “living your passion” aren’t calls to pursue self-indulgent flights of fancy. They are necessary for living a whole and happy life.

My decision to become a writer at age 16 was actually a discovery of who I am and what I have a passion for doing. Deciding to pursue that passion is what led me to the life I enjoy today. This is why I would have become a writer regardless of what happened in my life. Whatever passion you have in your life, pursue it and don’t let circumstances or other people’s criticisms divert you from your path. Your life will become richer and more fulfilling because of it.

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