When I First Knew I was a Writer

Author, Blog

When someone tells me they don’t know what they want to do for a living or what their passion is, one of the first things I want to know is: what did you want to be when you grew up? And second, what did you spend your free time doing as a child? Because, while it might not apply to everyone, those two questions reveal that I was a writer from the time I was eight years old.

Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash

My earliest goals were to be either an artist or an astronaut (hey, I was six). Once I was well into elementary school, I realized I would never have the scientific skills to pursue my interstellar dreams. But the dream of becoming an artist began to shape and mold itself into wordplay. At ten, I fell in love with a show about children creating a newspaper during the American Revolution (Liberty’s Kids, if you want to know exactly how old I am). They had a website that let you create your own single-page newspaper and I used it to begin a family newsletter that I proudly printed and mailed to my aunts. I would draft up the latest family happenings, from my sister’s basketball game, to my brother’s black eye. A decade later, I held a degree in journalism.

There were other signs too—like the creative writing class I took as a 12-year-old. I stole inspiration from the novels I loved, crafting stories that bordered on plagiarism, though no one seemed to recognize it. The teacher praised me highly and I began to catch a glimpse of myself as a writer.

If there’s one moment though, I would point to something that happened three years later. At 15, I was busy with high school, distracted by peers, and trying to babysit all I could to afford my own phone. I wasn’t doing much writing outside of my journal and a pen pal, but I still loved it and dabbled in it when I could. I was attending a charismatic church at the time and the wife of the lead pastor said God had told her something about me. We didn’t know each other well and hadn’t spent any time together, so she admitted she might be off. She said, “I’m not sure if you enjoy writing or not, but I feel like God showed me that you’re going to write words that will make history. You’re going to be an earth-shaking writing.” Talk about a confidence boost!

From that moment on, I knew I was going to be a writer.

JUST KIDDING! Nope. I mean, at that moment , sure, I thought I’d be a writer. But I had plenty of people speaking negativity into my life as well. There’s no shortage of people willing to tell aspiring journalists that newspapers are dying, media are evil, writers are starving artists, and so on and so forth. Just walking into the library made me want to give up—how could I ever stand a chance when there’s already millions of books out there?

So, I spent a year and a half at a community college with a general studies major. When I transferred to the University of Texas, I entered as a linguistics major. I thought I might go into speech therapy. My love for language was unshakeable, but I didn’t think writing was a viable option. One month into linguistics, I was applying to transfer to the journalism school. (Let’s just say linguistics was not my gifting.) A kid in my linguistics class told me, “good luck, I’ve been rejected twice.” He went on to tell me that it was a highly exclusive club and few got in, many had to re-apply semester after semester. I didn’t have time to spare, I was already ending my sophomore year.

So God made a way. In fact, I think he let me momentarily lose sight of writing for a reason. If I had applied to UT’s journalism school as an outsider, I might not have made it in. But being a student already and then applying to transfer programs helped pave the way (yes, the student above had been rejected as an inside transfer, it still wasn’t easy). Now, after several years of journalism, God’s been reawakening a love for writing fiction, inspiring novel after novel—faster than my hands can type them (and I’m not slow).

You know what they say about hindsight? Well, it’s true. It’s amazing how confusing things like majors and careers can feel as a young adult. The options seem endless, the pros and cons stretch on forever. But when I look back, it’s easy to say—of course! It was right there all along! And I think it often is. Our passions can be found when we think back to a time before we worried about job availability, average salaries, etc. Our passions were clear when they were childhood dreams. (And if you think yours were all over the place, there are jobs for that too. Mine were too as a child, and that’s what I love about journalism and writing—it lets me explore a variety of fields and interests.)

I would love to hear others’ stories! When did you know you would be a… Whatever it is you are today! Please share!

/This was written as a response to Hope Writers‘ January prompts./

I’m a Fact Checker, But Not For Facebook

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

I live in an area with a 50/50 voter split. You never know if you’re talking to a gun-toting Texan or a free-college Californian. (Oh, don’t look at me like that, I’m leaning on some cliches here.) People here tend to tread lightly when it comes to politics, depending on the social circle you’re currently in. There are certain topics people steer clear of in conversation. But now, my very own job title has joined the ranks of Undiscussable. (Not a word.)

I didn’t realize it until several months ago when I had a well-meaning, old-school Texan sit me down and run through a list of “alternative websites” for me to use when fact-checking. As an anti-politics Millennial (sorry?), I was more confused than anything. I reassured him I was thorough in using various sources, though I explained his had nothing to do with the type of work I did.

That was when he mentioned Facebook and it clicked. All of a sudden, I realized those strange looks I was getting had nothing to do with spinach in my teeth. It was because saying I was a fact-checker had become a political statement.

Somehow, the job that nobody knew existed two years ago has become a political weapon. Now, I can’t just say I fact check. I have to say, “I fact-check for magazines regarding small details like if so-and-so’s grandmother made bonnets or if the shop’s tiles are really green. I don’t do Facebook-type fact-checking.” It’s a distinction I never had to make before. And one that makes my job description significantly longer.

But honestly, as much as I try to downplay the work I do for the sake of politics, I’m proud of it.

I call dozens of people for each article that goes into a magazine like Texas Highways. I speak to former Olympians to fix things like the wrong date listed for when they played their first game. I speak with passionate conservationists, excited to share their story, and particular that we don’t call a lizard “pregnant” because apparently the right term for reptiles is “gravid.” And I speak with everybody’s grandmother named Betty Mae up in the Panhandle to confirm that she has owned the little cafe since 1962, when she bought it from her father—no, scratch that, it was her uncle.

That’s what I do.

I’m not telling anyone how to live their lives. I’m helping authors share their stories accurately. I’m catching those little details that fall through the cracks of a thousand words. And apparently, I’m now spreading information on fact-checkers. Honestly, I’m not sure how companies like Facebook do it. I’m not sure if they’re hiring trained journalists or if it’s all computer programming. But as a professional in the field, I’m just here to say: it’s not all the same thing. On the rare chance that you meet a fact-checker soon, have a little more curiosity and a little less presumption. Because I can guarantee you, they’ve got some stories to tell.