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Jun13
Author Donald Ray Pollock Explains How He Left His Dayjob

KnockemstiffWriting is a scary field--it requires lots of work with little rewards, it's tough to break in, and worst of all, there isn't an ounce of job security.  

Despite all these risks, author Donald Ray Pollock left his solid job at a paper mill and followed his dream to become a writer. Today he tells us how he left his day-job and emerged with a book of rough-and-tumble short-stories about his Ohio hometown called Knockemstiff.

Welcome to my deceptively simple feature, Five Easy Questions. In the spirit of Jack Nicholson’s mad piano player, I run a weekly set of quality conversations with writing pioneers—delivering some practical, unexpected advice about web writing.

Jason Boog:
You took a big risk and left your job to become a writer. You said in one interview, "I was really not satisfied. I wanted to do    something else before I kicked the bucket. I told my wife I was going to try to write and I would give it five years." How did you cope with the frustrations and insecurities you faced along that journey?

Donald Ray Pollock:

Okay, at the age of forty-five, I’d been at the paper mill for twenty-seven years.  I became depressed that year, began to feel like I’d wasted my life. Continue reading...

 

I thought about it for a while, asked myself how I’d like to spend the rest of my time on this earth, and I decided to try and learn how to write fiction.  I’d always had that fantasy in the back of my mind, but had never done anything with it.  So I decided to really work at it for five years and see what happened.  At the end of that period, I’d published maybe 4-5 stories and had been accepted in the MFA program at OSU.  But during that five years, I have to say that I wasn’t frustrated about the process.  I’d read that leaning to write was similar to learning to play a musical instrument and so I knew that I had to be patient.  Also, I didn’t have high expectations.  I did have insecurities, but I think most writers have those.  I mean, I probably received 150 rejections during that time.  I guess the most frustrating and insecure part of the journey was when I had to decide whether I was going to go to grad school or stay at the mill.  By that time I’d been sucking on the mill’s tit for thirty-two years.  I made union wages, I had good health insurance, I had a pension, and I had friends there.  However, I still desperately wanted to change my life, so I ended up leaving in October 2005.  I guess I better stick in here that I’m not suggesting that anyone quit the day job to become a writer!

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