The Winding Road of Self-Discovery

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”  Will Rogers

“Schedule your priorities rather than prioritizing your schedule.”  From a 7 Habits of Highly Effective People calendar.

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”  Power of Intention, Wayne Dyer

My journey into the written word has been serpentine to say the least. As the only student in my 11th grade English class who didn’t plan to go to college, I read a book while my peers played with index cards and crafted their first research paper sans computer. Who knew that decades later I’d be writing books and a dissertation.

I was always a lover of books. I have a six-inch scar on my knee, obtained when I was seven years old when I tripped over an overturned footstool and cut my knee to bone, requiring eight stitches, all because I’d been reading and walking at the same time.

Through my childhood and teens, I had countless penlights taken away when caught reading when I should be sleeping. I learned to read by the streetlight, instead.

I was 19 when I ordered my first online writing course. There wasn’t much theory, just a lot of instructions. Working full-time during the week, with two part-time jobs in the evenings and weekends, plus playing slow-pitch softball didn’t leave much time for writing. Besides, I didn’t have a lot of life experience. Who would believe anything *I* had to say? I was no expert. Moreover, I didn’t feel anything exciting had happened in my life. What was there to write about?

So, I dabbled in poetry a little. Short. No rules . . . or so I thought. I can’t say the poetry went anywhere either.

Then I got married, became a stay-at-home wife and mother. Reading became a touchstone in my life; I needed the mental stimulation, and I was often left to my own devices due to my husband’s work. I was easily reading a book a day. I read everything: how-to informational, biography, history, religions, earth sciences, philosophy, psychology, and fiction of all kinds, which include a healthy dose of romances.

I’d been writing in a journal for years when I had a friend read a couple of essays I’d written. She said they reminded her of Erma Bombeck. Those essays became writing samples that culminated into a weekly, humorous newspaper column I wrote for five years. I never missed a deadline despite power outages and illnesses, whether the kids or mine. Of course, that was back in the day when there weren’t computers, so a power outage didn’t affect my manual typewriter. Driving into town to deliver the article, however, when the roads were blocked by fallen trees was another matter.

Writing that column, I learned how to use dialogue, narration, how to write tight, and more. I literally learned as I wrote.

From that column, I moved into magazine articles and short stories, getting a reasonable amount of work published. Then I tackled writing romances thinking they’d be easy to write; they’re not, which is a completely different blog. I published three books and quickly became bored with the restrictive boundaries of plot and characterization dictated by the publishers. By then, I was a connoisseur of movies, especially old movies, I decided to tackle screenplays, inhaling all the how-too books. Instantly, I loved that style of writing, which was all about motion, short descriptions, engaging but flawed characters, and plots. Hallelujah, no more introspection!

During that time, I had divorced, moved to the South and remarried. Because of my publications, I was asked to speak at various organizations; and then, a local college asked me to teach adult enrichment writing classes. I did and found I loved teaching, so I started teaching writing classes online, as well.

I optioned a screenplay and was working with half a dozen different Hollywood producers who wanted to see anything and everything I wrote. Remarkably, it was easier for me to make a Hollywood connection than it had been to do so with New York publishers.

Unfortunately for my writing career, life took a sharp turn where I found myself divorced again, moved back to Michigan, and had to support myself. Wanting to get away from accounting and office work, which I’d performed all my life, I tried retail sales, and then as a supervisor for a Fortune 500 company. I wasn’t inspired and worked like a dog. These jobs were not my passion and exhausted me. I was good at them, but they weren’t rewarding. At this time, I began teaching writing classes through Kellogg Community College. Through teaching I became rejuvenated and found my passion again.

At that point, I watched my oldest daughter graduate from college, in debt, but with her bachelor’s degree. I could do that, I thought, but to teach at the college level would require not just one degree but three! Plus, I would be starting from scratch, starting with my associate degree.

I decided if I had to work the rest of my life, I wanted that work to be play, and teaching about writing was definitely a playful way to work.

The minute I began my master’s degree, I was able to quit my day job and start teaching, which was part of my scholarship. I loved it! For the first time in my life, I felt I was home. I got my Masters of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, a terminal degree that allowed me to teach at any higher education institution, thinking I was done. Three years later, though, I began work on a Ph.D. Why? Because I want to be able to teach teachers about writing, continue teaching students about writing, hopefully someday teaching creative writing, and I want to seriously return to my writing. After all, writing has brought me to where I am today as a professor, a mentor of other teachers, and a student once again; and soon, I can add producer to that list, as I work on forming my own production company, from which I will publish books and produce screenplays.

Decades ago, I saw myself surrounded by books, living alone, enjoying my work and my life. That vision exists today all because when I found my life not working, I made a plan and took steps to implement that plan, despite the naysayers, despite the criticism. Fortunately, I had some great friends, mostly all writers, who believed in my ability and saw my desire.  More importantly, I believed I could follow that vision IF I wanted it badly enough. As a result, I have become the example my own students need to see and know that they too can live their dream.

Today, I’m excited and jazzed. If all goes well, by Christmas I’ll be Ph.D. ABD (All But Dissertation; meaning the only thing left to do is write the dissertation, which is another blog all by itself, as well.)  By Christmas, I expect my book to be selling on through the Kindle Store, having created my own cover, a new adventure for me; yet another subject for a blog; meaning, I’ll let you know how it goes.

I haven’t been this excited about my own projects in a long time.

The journey continues.

About Diana Stout

Screenwriter, author, former English professor
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3 Responses to The Winding Road of Self-Discovery

  1. Jo says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed… as I always do. I am going to take the Will Rogers quote to heart, god damn it. I’ll email you soon. love and miss…


  2. This is an amazing post–and very well-written. (You may be surprised at how badly written many writers’ blogs are.) That’s a lifetime of dedication to writing. And as a teacher, I have to tell you that the job takes away from the fire to write at times–that’s why I now wake up at 5 a.m. on school mornings to get MY writing done! Best of luck to you. I hope to see you with a bestseller or a Professor of the Year sometime soon!


  3. vimax says:

    This is a smart blog. I mean it. You have so much knowledge about this issue, and so much passion. You also know how to make people rally behind it, obviously from the responses. Youve got a design here thats not too flashy, but makes a statement as big as what youre saying. Great job, indeed.


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