Ya Gotta Start Somewhere


The turn of the year always reeks of transition. We make resolutions and overwhelm ourselves with the ways we plan to improve our lives. We think of financial goals, weight loss challenges, romantic relationships and career milestones. We shed our body fat, toss out the extraneous stuff in our basement, and vow to live and love better in the coming year. About a year ago, I decided to quit my corporate job and to try to make a living as a writer. I thought it would come easily and that I would be established by the time January came around again. So much has changed in a year’s time in ways that I could never have predicted. I’m not a famous author, but I am a working writer. I’m working today because I was willing to start at the bottom.

Last year, I wrote a question in my journal: “What would I do if I thought I was worth it?” I have come to believe that we tend to live the lives that we think that we deserve. I’m not talking about The Secret or other “if I’m positive I will attract piles of money” nonsense. I’m talking about our intent and our choices. I stuck with a non-creative treadmill of a job for many years primarily because I believed that no one would be interested in what I had to say as a writer and as an artist. I didn’t think I deserved to be heard. So I wasn’t.

As I made the transition, someone suggested a website called Virtual Vocations to me. This website posted work-at-home jobs from a variety of fields, including writing jobs. I would periodically review the job board, and then I would click the window shut. I had no writing background and nothing to really prove that I could hold down a writing job. Then, I found my first writing bulletin board.

Writing bulletin boards exist all over the web. Writers take jobs from a series of bulletin boards. We write the articles, press releases or whatever, and we get paid for our work. I found my first bulletin board and signed up to be a writer. I passed the editorial process and started regularly taking articles. I wrote on highbrow topics like “Green IRAs” and hilarious topics, including one article on “Colon Cleansing” and one article, on, yes, I’m serious, “Penis Stretching.” Mostly, I picked the highbrow topics, but when the pickin’s were slim, I wrote about anything they would give me. Gardening gloves. Electrolysis hair removal. Toenail fungus.

I also wrote about these topics for no money whatsoever. I was making less than a cent a word and barely clearing $100 a week. My family needed money, and I certainly wasn’t going to go back to my corporate job with my tail between my legs and beg for part-time hours. I kept writing for this organization, and I kept getting better at the job. As I grew faster, I made more money. A friend of mine told me that she had a writer acquaintance who was having a difficult time finding work. I gave her the name of my company, which she passed along to the non-working writer. He scoffed at their rates and at the work, and I just kept on writing. I was making money and getting better at what I was doing. I couldn’t afford to scoff.

After a while, I went back to Virtual Vocations and started looking for more writing opportunities. Today, I write for three companies as a contract freelancer and also work for three larger and better-paying bulletin boards (no more penis stretching). I make about as much money as a lower-level manager would make at my old workplace, and as a bonus I get to spend more time with my husband and my children. I’m not too far above the bottom, but I believe I’m finally going places.

I realize now that if you do nothing about your life, you are guaranteed that nothing good will happen. As Beth Orton sings in “Heartland Truck Stop,” “if we keep doing the same thing nothing will work out differently.” As a result, I’ve changed my approach to life. Nowadays, my philosophy is, “It may as well be me.” In answer to my earlier question, I responded in my journal that, if I thought I was worth it, “I wouldn’t be ashamed of my work. I would keep on writing, see where it takes me, and not apologize for wanting to be an artist.” I definitely have a business side and a creative side to my writing life, but I also have my freedom. I am less wealthy financially, but my coffers are full in terms of happiness.

I still have many things that I want to accomplish and many ways that I want to grow as a writer. However, I would still be sitting in an office hating myself if I hadn’t finally decided that I deserved better. There’s nothing wrong with working in an office or any other job, mind you, if that’s what you want to do. I was simply cramming myself into a suit of clothes that didn’t fit, and I was doing it because I was afraid.

I’m still afraid to become a writer. If I do end up going places, people are going to read a lot more than my blog. I’ll be exposing my ideas and my innermost thoughts to the world. I am a quiet person who keeps a lot of things hidden, but if I write, then everyone will know what I’m thinking. On the other hand, I’ve tapped into a vein, and I’m rushing along with the tide. I am compelled to get up every morning and to do what I do because I love my craft. If I could send out a New Year’s wish to my friends and readers, I would wish that everyone would find something that they love to do, even if they have to start on the nasty, vermin-ridden dirt floor of the profession and risk losing everything to do it.

You deserve to be happy this year. Even if it requires a little penis stretching along the way.

9 thoughts on “Ya Gotta Start Somewhere

  1. Jeanne says:

    I am so very proud and happy for you Jackie! I have no formalized resolutions for this New Year, but I definitely need to think of myself in better terms. Some one out there wants to read what I have to say as well! Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Lynda says:

    i’m so happy for you Jackie. If i could do anything for myself, in this new year, it would be to love and value myself a whole lot more than i do.

  3. Personally, I’m glad there’s less penis stretching going on around our house.

    And you definitely do have to start somewhere. The world is full of people who want to do something and never do it for whatever reason. Sometimes I feel like that person, too. But you are definitely not that person anymore, and I’m so glad to see you sharing your writing in so many ways.

    Why not you? Exactly right! We should all live this way.

  4. Wendy Goldstein says:

    I plan to get healthier by being outside more. I also plan to hunt either moose or caribou this year. I plan to help our town raise $40,000 for Relay for Life this year. I intend to live a meaningful life.
    You are awesome, Jackie. Stay on track and never doubt your own abilities. Oh and I don’t need you to mail me a cookie or anything like that.

  5. What a hook. Promises of a lollipop or cookie and POOF here I am! :-p Jackie I am very very GLAD that you are reaching for your goal as a professional writer! And look at that, you didn’t even need my “NYC creds!” I might need to hit you up for some of the information you eluded to in here though lol. Seriously, like Jeanne, I don’t make resolutions. But I do have a business coach and she and I are working to create short and long term goals for my coaching and writing consultation business. I’d like to live in a better apartment/neighborhood in the next year. I’d also like to see significant steps towards getting back to my Master’s degree. I am so pleased for you though. Starting at the bottom is NOT easy. But in many cases it is how you create a foundation for a new you. Cheers!

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