As mentioned in my last post, I’ve started fielding questions on my Facebook page and five good ones have been sent my way so far. Every week I will answer one of them until I run out. (If you have a question for me, on any topic as long as it’s not inappropriate or too personal, please ask me in the comments section below.)
I’ve chosen Wednesdays for this weekly feature only because I’m finally able to get to the first question tonight and it happens to be Wednesday. Pretty clever, eh? :) (I’m posting this late at night so I guess a lot of you won’t see it until Thursday–I’m not trying to confuse you! I’ll try to post earlier next time.)
Here’s the first question (actually two questions), from my friend Salena:
This is a fun one for me to answer, partly because I never set out to make a career of writing. I wanted to be a chemical technologist “when I grew up”!
My very first job. . . Well, that depends on whether Salena is referring to my first “real” job. As a teenager I used to earn some cash by babysitting, tutoring, and working at my aunt’s lingerie shop during summer sidewalk sales. The first time I got an actual paycheque was when I worked for 3-1/2 weeks at an animation studio, CinéGroupe, filling in for a production assistant while he was on vacation. I think that was in 1990. I got the job through a friend at church who worked there, not because I was looking for it. It was loads of fun even though I spent most of my time making a bajillion photocopies. The animation series was called The Little Flying Bears but I can’t remember which episode I was there for.
Although that was a temp job, I mention it because it gave me a taste of being involved in a creative project. I still thought I was meant to go into sciences because it never occurred to me to entertain any notions of pursuing a creative career. I excelled in my science and math courses so it seemed natural to go in that direction.
It is obvious now that God had other plans. In the middle of my college studies, I began to do poorly in my program. The life was being sucked out of me and I just couldn’t keep up. Something was wrong. I transferred into a general science program just to complete my studies and get my college diploma, but I started looking around for the path I needed to be on. I applied to university to study computer science and got rejected. In the meantime, I got my second job, which started out as a summer job but ended up going for nine months as I tried to figure out my future; this job (also thanks to a church member) was at a scarf importer, preparing samples for buyers. Again, there was a creative element to my job that I loved but I was still thinking science!
While I waited for a response to my second application to university, I looked for a temporary clerical job. I should mention at this point that throughout this year or so of being in limbo and feeling confused about my career, my parents were a great support (and here we touch on Salena’s second question). My father urged me to consider my talents and interests and he kept talking about how good I was at writing and in English. I not-so-silently scoffed and asked, “What am I supposed to do with that? Become a writer?!” It just didn’t make sense to me.
So, back to my story: I landed at a trade magazine publisher and knew, within days, that this was the industry I belonged in. Thankfully, my second application to university got rejected, too. (It seems they weren’t satisfied with some of my math grades from college.) I was actually relieved! I ended up staying at Home BUILDER Magazine for four years, progressing from typesetter to proofreader to editorial assistant over that time. So, in a sense, this was my first real job. And it also became my last job because, in December 1996, I quit and decided to start my own business.
But before I quit, I had to share my plans with my parents. I was 24 at the time but still depended a lot on their wisdom and guidance in the bigger questions of life. I told my father that I wanted to start working for myself (at that time I was leaning more toward desktop publishing) and that I’d like to try it out for a few months and then, if I failed, look for another “real” job or go back to school. I braced myself for a reaction along the lines of: “Are you out of your mind, child? What kind of a stupid plan is that? You can’t run your own business.”
Not even thirty seconds later, my dad nodded his head and said, “Yup. I think you can do it. Go for it.”
That was over 17 years ago! It was tough going for the first few years as I was a complete unknown. I did all kinds of odd jobs designing newsletters and proofreading, along with the occasional freelance writing assignment, but eventually took on a lot of copy editing work and started building relationships at writers’ conferences. Today, I’m waiting for my fourth book to be released and have had nearly 300 articles published. I almost exclusively write. I have one ongoing proofreading job (for Home BUILDER, believe it or not!) and one regular e-newsletter editing job; other than that, all my work is writing. I couldn’t be happier with my job and try to remember to thank God for it every day.
You can learn a bit more about my journey as a writer on the “About” page of my website.
Well, I hope that answered your questions, Salena, and that at least a few others enjoyed learning about my journey. Thanks for your interest!
Curious about what question #2 was? Here’s a sneak peek: “How often do you keep up with current events, as they pertain to Israel? The book of Daniel lately has me watching the news very carefully. Are you a news junkie or do you tend to stay away from what is going on with politics etc.?” Come back next week to see my response!