How does an Engineer Become a Writer?

With engineering being such a science and maths oriented calling, I often get asked how on earth did you get interested in writing.
Well, I’d just like to set the record straight once and for all. I was a writer before I was an engineer. I’ve been writing since I could read. I decided I wanted to be an author way back when I was like… I don’t know… nine…. maybe even earlier. I wrote my first novels, in 96 page exercise books. You know… the ones your mum used to buy you for school. I wrote my first novel on my dad’s computer, when I was eleven. He let me because it was for a legit competition run by the Australian Book Council. The story was about an eleven year old girl who had a genie. I still have it somewhere. It didn’t place but was highly commended.
After that, I graduated to 128 page exercise books. I started writing books that would probably resemble the Australian version of Sweet Valley High. My sister loved those books. At seventeen, my father decided he needed a new computer and gave me his dinosaur of a laptop. This thing was huge and weighed a tonne. But it was a turning point in my life. My own computer. Spell check, thesaurus and formatting on tap. No internet of course. It wasn’t quite in the average home just yet. But still! WOW!

So I guess the real question I’m leading to here is, why does a person who has always, ALWAYS been so passionate about writing turn to engineering?

The reason is quite simply that I needed a plan B to please my parents. I had good grades at school. So my father being the man of logic and reason (an engineer himself) who God Bless him has never picked up a novel in his life, not even one of mine, could not see a future for his precious daughter in the unstable, risky, unreliable world of novel writing. To him, it was like me saying I wanted to be a rock star. So I thought, what the heck, I’ll do engineering to please him. I’ll probably be published before I finish this degree anyway. It doesn’t really matter what I pick. I’ll just chuck it in when I’m done with it right? WRONG!

My father was right about one thing, writing is risky, unstable, unreliable and well… it’s bloody hard! I’ve lost count of the number of rejection letters I’ve received. The truth about writing is that to be a writer, sometimes you need to live first. How can you comment on what people go through in life when you haven’t been doled out at least some amount of pain and success yourself.

Engineering was not my first choice but there are many things about it I have grown to love. It does have it’s own creative side. It allows me to use that side of my brain that would otherwise stay dormant. It’s logical, straight forward, A leads to B with no fancy business in between which is sometimes exactly what I need. It’s taken me places I would never go on a whim. It’s tested me as a person. Introduced me to people I never would have otherwise met. It’s paid for my house, my car and a good deal of what I ate for many years. And after all that, it gave me my first novel. So I have a lot to thank it for.

Sometimes I think life leads you down strange pathways and it’s only upon looking back that you can see why.

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10 thoughts on “How does an Engineer Become a Writer?

  1. I really enjoyed reading “How does an Engineer become a writer”. Personally, I struggled with this myself, I was very mechanically minded but as you loved writing. It goes to illustrate the simple truth about both writing and engineering. In order to go from point A to B, you need to understand all the variables.

  2. I like that you have continued to write.I believe we can’t remain content by doing just one thing. Times change, so do people and jobs! If we can do a few different things and remain happy, we must do those few different things. Whatever it is that that injects fresh perspective into one, be it playing a game, writing, traveling, cooking, reading must co-exist with the principal day job that pays the bill and gives other opportunities!

  3. Oh wow. Hi!!!!!!! I’m all the way on the other side of the world (Nigeria) and this is my story too!! Exactly. Down to my Dad making me do Engineering because he thought writers would be broke. I just finished the first draft of my novel. Hi again!!! 😀

  4. I’m actually in college now for engineering. I love writing, and sometimes I wonder if I should change majors. I think engineering is interesting, and I know that there’s more of a chance to have financial stability. I have taken creative writing classes on the side which have helped. It’s interesting when your homework is something you already love to do. I’ve seen some people who clearly love engineering and could only ever be an engineer. It makes me question whether I should stick with it.

    • Hi Maria,
      I chose engineering because although it wasn’t my passion, I needed a plan B. As you’ve said, it is a good job that offers financial stability. Not to say, that I didn’t enjoy many aspects of the work also when I was working as an engineer. I think this is a decision you need to think about very carefully. Best of luck with both the writing and the engineering.
      cheers,
      Loretta

  5. Same here! an engineer/writer, struggling to make it into the world of writing. But really, not easy to maintain the motivation, especially when a lot of years has passed…

  6. Great post! Was searching on the net for people like who who combine engineering and writing and found this! As I like to say, ‘more vim to you’. I have been writing and publishing since 2008 but writing way before then, just like you, with my short stories appearing in national weeklies whilst in engineering school. I have 6 published books now and considering moving to full-time writing soon. Keep writing!

  7. HI, I really resonated with this story. I too grew up wanting to be a writer, I still do. But I’ve perused a career as a network engineer. Because my mum knew how hard that life would be. Coincidentally, I actually enjoy studying the field and want to also make success for myself in that area. However, I am biding my time to get myself writing fictional stories later in life. congratulations on what you have achieved Loretta.

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