My car died in the winter of 2012, when I was in my second semester of grad school, so I called a tow truck and had it hauled to a dealership on the other side of town.
The truck driver was friendly and chatty and so was his wife, who had come along for the ride.
The three of us sat together on a bench seat in the cab of the truck, and they asked about school and my ambitions in life.
I was reluctant to reveal too much, and they could tell I was being honest, but not open.
Finally, I revealed the thing I really wanted to do, the thing I’d wanted to do since I was eight years old.
“I want to write books,” I said.
The truck driver’s wife, who sat immediately to my left, didn’t miss a beat.
“So do it,” she said. “You should do that.”
I grinned stupidly and said something non-committal like: “Yeah, I’d like to. We’ll see.”
But I knew she was right. I knew she had just given me some of the best advice I’d ever received as a writer.
If you want to do this, then do it.
Don’t hem and ha over what, exactly, you’ll write.
Don’t worry if you’ll make any money at it.
Don’t quit your day job. Please don’t.
That may never be in the cards.
Most writers have day jobs.
But get out of your own way.
If this is something you want to do, you should do it.
Be careful. Be cautious. But don’t be shy.
About three years later, I took an online course about how to write a book.
It was expensive, but it taught me the basics: How to come up with an idea, how to sketch an outline, how to stick to a writing schedule.
After two more years of fits and starts, while I juggled new jobs and the workload and stresses that came with them, I finally published.
“Self-published,” I told my cousin Chris when he asked about it.
“Ah,” he said. “Still counts.”
He’s right. It counts. I am, technically, a published author.
It wouldn’t have happened if I’d never taken a chance.
It wouldn’t have happened if I’d worried too much about what people would say, or what they would think of me, or whether or not my book would sell a million copies.
It wouldn’t have happened if I’d hadn’t followed my friendly companion’s advice that day.
Her thoughts, echoing the marketing gods at Nike, is the best I have to offer if writing is something you want to do.
So do it. You should do that.
You really should.