Tonight I hold in my hands (well, not right now – right now I’m typing…) a check. Written to me. For something I wrote.
The check is from a writer who needed some help on a business writing project. She went to Craigslist and posted her need for help. I went to Craigslist looking for a paint sprayer to paint my kitchen cabinets. I stumbled upon her ad and responded. And I wrote. And she paid me.
You have to understand this is a big deal. I’ve wanted to be a writer for the past 40 years or so. I was inspired by my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Williamson. She was amazing – six feet tall, booming voice, long salt and pepper hair. And one day a week, she’d throw 3 or 4 magazine pictures up on the blackboard shelf and tell us to write about them. They were usually advertisements, and many of them were cigarette ads. Youngsters don’t remember the days when the tobacco industry had the ability to advertise in magazines and on television, but the ads used to be prolific. The pictures would show children, adults, animals, and Mrs. Williamson would encourage us to spend 15 minutes making up stories about what was happening in the pictures. It changed the way I looked at things.
My best friend, Cyndi, and I became instant “great American authors” (in our minds) over the next year or two. We filled reams of paper with our stories and fledgling novels. Our heroines had names like “Destiny” and “Cassandra”, and they rode horses and bravely saved their towns and fell in love with the brave, dangerous heroes with names like “Chase” and “Lance”. I think I wrote well over 100 pages on one novel, which isn’t bad for a 12-year-old!
And then life happened. High school. Work. Bad relationships that sapped my self-confidence. “Someday” I’d get back to writing again. I even started a novel a few years ago (it can’t possibly have been 10 years, can it?), but I set it aside as life got busy again. It was always “someday”. Hubby supported and encouraged me, and I started using some of my writing ability at work. It was fun to use that long-stifled talent.
Then I turned 50. Hello, mid-life crisis! Oh my God, my life is more than half over, I’m a freakin’ senior citizen (according to AARP), and what was I doing with my life?? That’s when I knew that it was now or never for my dreams. I had to start writing. And still I waited, but apparently 52 is the magic age for me. First, I started this blog, which really got my writing muscles back in shape. I’ve read a ton of books about how to become rich writing ad copy, writing magazine articles, writing travelogs, writing annual reports, writing memoirs, writing scripts, writing speeches, writing grants, and even writing blogs (but not this one). I’m thinking there’s a lucrative market in writing books about writing things. And then I started inquiring on writing opportunities.
And now (well, not right now – right now I’m typing…) I am holding a check. Made out to me. For twelve pages of copy about how to properly form a business entity. Because I was basically a sub-contractor for the writer, there won’t be a byline. But I got a check. Forty years after the dream began, someone paid me to write. Holy sh*t (more about cursing in a future post).
What did you dream about as a little girl or boy? Dancing? Racing ? Writing? Acting? Singing? Running away with the circus? Saving the world from a dread disease?
Well, what in the world are you waiting for? Trust me, pursuing your dream is worth it. I discovered that the first time I sang with the praise band at church four years ago and remembered all those nights of hopping around my bedroom singing into my mascara tube while the records spun (remember records??). Okay, truth be told, I was too scared the first time to even hold the microphone, fearing my trembling hand would end up knocking out my teeth with the mic if I tried to hold it. But the third or fourth time, when I was comfortable enough to grab the mic out of the stand and start moving around – it felt like I completely connected with the little girl who once was me.
And I also reached my dream of owning a horse farm. That wasn’t exactly dream-like (hard, hard work), but it was satisfying. When I put the farm up for sale seventeen years ago, one friend was shocked, saying “but you always wanted a horse farm!” My reply? “Yes, I did. And I had one. Next?”
I’ll admit it’s probably too late to pursue my childhood dream of racing snowmobiles. It’s not that it would be physically impossible, but I just don’t think I have that kind of edge anymore. Not to mention that these days snowmobile racing involves high jumps and flips and a lot more than just laying on the throttle like I used to love to do.
Have I mentioned that I just got paid for writing? I can now say that I’m a professional writer. When someone asks what I do, I can say “I’m a writer”. Forget about the minor details like the double-digit size of the paycheck and the fact that I’d starve if it were my full-time career (but who knows?). I don’t care. I’m a writer. Forty years later, I can finally check off that little box on my list. And yes, I am going to make a copy of the check and frame it. I probably shouldn’t need the validation that a check brings, but I do, and I don’t give a damn.
What’s next? More little paychecks, probably. And hopefully some bigger ones. And maybe I’ll dust off that novel again. After all, someone just paid me to write.