When we think of post-military careers, “creative writing” isn’t always the first thing to come to mind. But that’s what writing is for our own Justin Sloan.
He was recently interviewed for a One Bold Move podcast (link below) that focused on his transition out of the military and into a life of creative writing. But for Justin, it’s not so much about choosing creative writing. It’s about (1) How to discover your passion, and (2) How to follow your passion.
For other military veterans out there debating your next move, or current military men and women wondering where life will take them when they get out, I advise you spend some deep moments considering these questions. Let me state up front that I am an optimist and believe you can achieve nearly whatever you set your mind to, within reason and given enough discipline and focus. If we assume that to be the case, which I feel my life has proven, along with many of the folks I interviewed in my recent book Creative Writing Career: Becoming a Writer of Movies, Video Games, and Books, then you really just have to figure out where you would be happiest and then make it happen.
Let me back up and summarize my experience. After my five years in the Marines, I went off to discover myself. I put the idea of getting a paycheck through a realistic job above the idea of following my passion. This led to some fun years living in Japan, Korea, and Italy, and interesting experience working in international trade, post-conflict reconstruction and stabilization, and banking regulation at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. However, I was missing something, and knew I couldn’t continue down that path.
I sat back and looked at my life, and realized I had no choice but to pursue my passion for creative writing. At some point along the line I had started writing a novel, and knew the best way to improve my craft was to take some writing classes. I had used my GI Bill on my international relations degrees, so thought I was done. However, I met some active duty soldiers who told me about the Post 9-11 GI Bill, and that even though I had used up my Montgomery GI Bill, this new source of funding was still (partially) available to me! I promptly looked it up and found out they were right, and applied to the MA in writing program I had my heart set on. And got rejected…. But only the first time, because one year later I was accepted. And guess what? I asked them, and the fact that I played up my military past on my application helped me get in.
I loved working toward my MA in writing, with a concentration in fiction. If you are considering life as a writer, I highly recommend pursuing such a degree. I met many wonderful authors in the program, and formed a tight friendship with a fellow former Marine. I started leveraging LinkedIn, and emailing writers and asking for advice, and of course my degree helped in building my credibility as an aspiring writer. Now I find myself working full-time as a writer at Telltale Games. I optioned a screenplay, and with published books, short stories, and poetry. None of this would have happened if not for my military time, the GI Bill, and my determination to follow my passion.
So whether it is writing or some other dream you wish to pursue, I would encourage you to go for it. If you are a military veteran, you have a strong connection to many men and women that are willing to help you simply because you served your country, both veterans and non-veterans. You also have benefits like the GI Bill, which means resources such as an education are available to you. Use them and pursue your passion.
To keep up to date with my interviews with military veterans in creative careers, visit my website.
Also, if you are a veteran and interested in writing, send me an email. I have several copies of Marine-turned-writer Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and other related books, and I’ll be happy to send a copy to the first 3 veterans that follow-up on this.
To follow Justin Sloan: http://eepurl.com/bbpNjv