Maybe in Another (Writing) Life

Sunday, July 16, 2017
I’ve been reading a chick-lit novel called “Maybe in Another Life” this week by an author named Taylor Jenkins Reid. In a premise similar to the Gwyneth Paltrow film, “Sliding Doors,” the reader is treated to alternating chapters on what would have happened if the protagonist, twenty-nine-year-old Hannah, had accepted a ride with her first love after returning to her hometown. In one scenario, she leaves a party with him. In another, she leaves with her best friend. The two storylines that play out are vastly different.

I’m enjoying the novel—even if the main character seems to worry a little too much about her love life, in my opinion (she has been wandering aimlessly from city to city with no real career path, for starters), and it did get me thinking about my own writing life. Along the way there were so many paths I could have taken and they all would have taken me down very different roads.

For example, upon graduating from college:
I considered taking a job as a reporter at a small, conservative newspaper in a town where I knew no one. It would have been a completely fresh start at the time, and I could have gained valuable reporting experience, even if the pay was pretty minimal.

Instead, I went to work as a media assistant at an advertising agency in town, where I did a tiny amount of public relations writing (mostly, I bought TV and radio ads for clients). It was a job that didn’t pay a lot (I had to work a second job on weekends), but it did have great benefits. I did also meet the guy who would eventually become my husband there.

And then, in my mid-20s:
I was working at a medium-sized advertising agency in a different city, when I was laid off from my media buying job without about a 100 other co-workers. We all scattered throughout the city applying for the same marketing and advertising jobs. I was offered a job selling automobile ads at a newspaper, which I took. But after the first day, I was so miserable and worried that I would never write again that I didn’t return to work.

Instead, I ended up waiting tables at an Outback Steakhouse while applying for any writing/marketing job I could find. After about six months, I heard back from a small public relations agency who just happened to have an opening for a public relations specialist. I interviewed and took the job, along with a great salary and a five-minute commute to my house, and slowly started writing again. I wrote client copy, press releases, stories for a local university’s alumni newsletter, and much more. And a few years later after my daughter was born, I had the courage and experience necessary to break into freelancing.

Now I find myself in my early forties with three manuscripts in a drawer and the idea for an adult suspense/thriller brewing in my head. (Aaagh!) But I’m trying to tell myself that there is still time to be published. I control my path, and I can make things happen if I buckle down. I could be sitting at a corporate office somewhere writing and editing digital content (I actually do that for a few freelance clients), or I can take the time to dust off a few projects and outline a new one. Which path would make me the happiest?

I’m pretty sure I know.

How has the path to your writing life been? Has it taken you unexpected places, with twists and turns? Is there a path you’re considering that you haven’t ventured down yet? I’d love to hear about it.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who is also obsessed with true crime. To be continued . . .


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--Richard Adams didn't publish a book until he was in his fifties.
Laura Ingalls Wilder and Frank McCourt--both in their 60s when they first published a book. Of course you still have time... You're still a young whippersnapper.

Isn't it strange how we bemoan when we get fired or lose out on something, and yet it all works out to create the wonderful life we end up leading...

A path I've considered is doing more (or some) freelance work. Sending out queries. However, I'm going to put that on hold until I sign a multi-million dollar book deal. Seriously, I'm happy with my writing and working life. Do I have the time to venture out of my box more? Yes, but right now I'm happy teaching and doing some writing on the side.

So if you know, do it. Put it out there publicly. Set a goal and let the whole world know. If you stumble, that's okay.

Just sayin'...

Margo Dill said...

You have time!!!! Goodness sakes--but this is an interesting post. I have a couple (what I feel are defining moments) in my life where I think...what if I would have...and how would my life be different. But I'm blessed so I try not to worry too much. :)

Angela Mackintosh said...

I've been thinking about this exact same thing, Renee. You might have seen that email where I said I was finally over my writer's block. Well, I pulled out those novels that I wrote eight years ago...those novels that I thought were really great and near, not even close!! I'm sorry to say that those novels were purely practice. The writing is atrocious. Better writing comes naturally with age. That's the great part. We will continue to get better, more refined. It's never too late! :)

Mary Horner said...

It's fun to think about what could have been, but this post is a great story in itself, perhaps you should write a longer version of this as a short story or novel!!!

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