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Becoming A Professional Writer

I don’t think there’s a usual way people become professional writers. I believe we all fall into the position in one way or another. I became a professional writer because I didn’t get into medical school. Growing up, I was surrounded by adults who worked in medicine and was convinced I wanted to be a doctor, so I earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Biochemistry, interned as a phlebotomist, and worked as a clinical allergy specialist after graduation. I scored well on my MCATs and earned a place on the University of New Mexico’s medical school waiting list. When I didn’t get in, relief instead of disappointment washed over me. I spent the next six months trying to figure out what the heck that meant.

I’ve always been a bookworm. The owner of Amy’s Bookcase, the used bookstore in my hometown, called me by name and allowed me to treat the store more like a library than a for-profit business. Because of my passion for reading, I took creative writing classes instead of general English courses to meet my undergraduate degree requirements. I thought I would have more fun writing stories than argumentative research papers, and it was. I still remember the excitement of completing my first short story and how the words burst from within me as if they’d been impatiently waiting years for escape. After graduation, I continued to write, so by the time I didn’t get into medical school, I’d completed my first novel and was a regular member of two writers groups. That’s when I decided to turn my love for writing (and reading) into a career.

Overcast Forest
A picture of a forest, for no apparent reason.

Almost exactly one year after receiving my rejection, I was accepted into the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, a graduate program for creative writing. I studied everything from poetry and fiction to how to teach college-level English courses. Now I have a MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics, three finished novels, and a plethora of short stories. More importantly, I’ve found a job that I’m excited to wake up for. Because I didn’t get into medical school, I get to spend my days immersed in stories: writing a website content for a client, editing another author’s novel, or creating my own pieces.

If someone would’ve told seven, sixteen, or twenty-two year old me that I’d become a professional writer instead of a surgeon, I’d have laughed and insisted they were wrong. I couldn’t have imagined a career outside of medicine, nor could I have fathomed turning my love for reading into a job as a writer. Turns out the best thing that has happened to me was a rejection from medicine – one I’m grateful for every day.