How I Became a Writer
from the Heart, Not a Prompt
How I Fought My Scary Gorilla Monster
to Become a Writer
A recently laid-off graphic designer has had enough of
Adobe Illustrator updates and the latest iterations of
Photoshop. She doesn't care.
She finally decides she wants to shed
her designer skin and give air to the suffocating writer
Since she was a shy teen, she’s devoured grammar and
writing books for fun. She’s analyzed how stories work
in the novels that she read every night before bed. She's kept
a notebook of inspiring prose and favorite passages. But she
wouldn’t dare write something and actually let someone read
it. Hell no. Her inhibition was a big, hairy gorilla monster that
kept a chokehold on that writing for a living nonsense.
The beast kept her locked in no-where-to-go graphic design
jobs for more than ten years. But now in her early 40s, she's
ready to fight back. She has to. She’s built up muscle and
she is strong enough to at least arm-wrestle the gorilla
monster—and sometimes win.
She thinks she can win this one. The timing feels right. She
wants to try writing. For a living. For an actual paycheck.
But she needs a writing portfolio.
Her blathering journals, stress-relief emails, and half-assed stories on her hard drive won’t qualify.
While she’s dutifully hunting for design gigs—‘cause those are the paying jobs she can certainly land—she also applies for any piddly writing assignment, anything that will help quilt together a portfolio.
She lands a few: writing cookbook reviews for Amazon and Barnes and Noble, proposal letters, and resumes.
A few weeks into her search, she finds an ad for people to write 'beginner guides' (think For Dummies series) from their list of proposed topics. They want writers who already have at least base knowledge of the subject they select.
One of the topics is going gluten-free. She has been gluten-free (GF) for 15 years—way before it was a thing, before the fad and fancy GF bread.
“Roselyn” writes back that they would love her to take the next step and submit a proposed outline and introduction for the book.
She writes an outline and intro.
They want her.
She gets the contract: Write a book manuscript between 130 and 250 pages in three months. Expect two to three rounds of edits, and she gets 10 percent of her book’s sales after it's published.
She writes the book in just under three months and submits it for the first round of edits.
The editor likes it. A lot. Oh, there are edits a-plenty, but considering this is her first book manuscript, the editor also has lots of good things to say.
She returns her revised version for the next round.
Two weeks go by without a word.
The third week she reaches out to the editor. And her project manager.
She sends more emails and tries to find phone numbers. Calls … emails … emails … calls … emails … emails.
Finally, her initial contact, Roselyn, answers one of her emails. Apparently, the company is under new management and in the process of reviewing all their books in the pipeline. She’s told to hang tight until she hears more.
She hears nothing more ever again.
In the meantime, she’s applied for several more graphic design jobs. She gets one interview.
With a company that creates tombstone designs.
The gravestone factory slumps in a cold, industrial part of a town an hour from where she lives. An hour and twenty with morning traffic. The office she’d be working in makes a prison cell look warm and cozy.
They offer her the job.
But just a few hours before she gets the offer, she lands an interview with a dental marketing company. For a copywriter position. A full-time bloody writing job.
She tells the gravestone people that she got another offer to consider, can she have a day or two? They agree.
She has her copywriter interview the next day.
It goes well. At the end of the interview, the two owners tell her that they loved her book manuscript. It’s exactly the style of writing they’re looking for: light, conversational, touch of humor.
In fact, she’s really their only candidate.
They offer her the job. Right then.
The unpublished manuscript lands her first full-time writing job.
That was 2014, and she’s never looked back, she’s been writing ever since.
Now she wants to try her hand at another manuscript. One for her. Her book. Her terms. And she will publish it.
That's the book actively in the works, C’mon Eileen: When a Dog Calls.