72: They Said I Couldn’t . . . But I Did

72: They Said I Couldn’t . . . But I Did

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive

They Said I Couldn’t . . . But I Did

Your dreams can be realities. They are the stuff that leads us through life toward great happiness.

~Deborah Norville

Rita walked out of my office and left me sitting there with my mouth hanging open. She had no idea that what she’d said would change my life.

“You’re really good at this. If you ever get tired of accounting, you could make a full-time living as a writer.”

Tired of accounting? I was way beyond that. I had totally hit the wall in my chosen profession. But my college education and years of experience were invested in accounting. I wasn’t sure how else to earn a decent income, not to mention that I was raising a teenage son alone, and I had a mortgage to consider. I thought I was stuck.

For a couple of months I’d been helping out with the company newsletter, writing articles here and there. Right away I started getting calls from co-workers, telling me how much they liked my stories. I enjoyed the kudos, but the idea of making money as a writer never occurred to me. Then came Rita, with her kind words, and I could think of nothing else.

That very night I started looking into the possibilities. At that point I was just looking for a diversion and a little extra income. Other than writing novels, which didn’t appeal to me much, or working as a newspaper reporter, which I did not want to do, I wasn’t sure how to make as money as a writer. Maybe I could write and sell some articles to magazines.

I spent hours searching online, but back then, the resources for writers were sparse. I did learn two key things. First, I needed some published clips if I was to be taken seriously, even if the clips were small. Second, the best policy was to write what you know. Publishers want people who can write with authority based on experience and/or knowledge. The problem was, who wanted stories about the joys of a balanced budget or the naughty truth behind straight-line depreciation?

I kept looking. Then one Saturday I stumbled onto a new e-zine that wanted articles. It was called Parenting Troubled Teens. I glanced at my son, asleep on the couch at two in the afternoon, and I knew I had something to say.

I hammered out a story in only thirty minutes, edited it a couple of times and hit “send.” Before the day ended, the editor had purchased it for twenty-five dollars. I was hooked. Not only was I getting paid, but people would read my article and may be helped by it.

I joined a local writers group and found a lot more resources. I loved telling them how I’d sold the first story I ever submitted, though never again would it be that easy. Even so, that first sell was enough to capture my heart and soul. It was also enough to help me sell a few more small pieces here and there. The money was puny and the “sales” were hard to come by. But eventually they added up, giving me some credibility with publishers.

I began to talk about my desire to someday quit my day job and make a full-time living as a writer. But everyone, including my friends with publishing experience, said it was a pipe dream. “Unless you’re the next John Grisham or Nora Roberts, it can’t be done.” It’s not like I was trying to become fabulously rich as a writer, though I wouldn’t turn it down! I just wanted to leave my accounting job, write full time, and ideally, do it from my home.

I wasn’t ready to leave my day job yet, but I believed with enough hard work, I someday would. I’d found a quote that drove me on. “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” So I prepared. I kept my eyes wide open for opportunities, and in time, I found more and more.

A content mill paid me to write ten articles a month for decent fees. In the time I worked for them, I gained hundreds more published clips, and built credibility on many different topics.

My biggest thrill came when I submitted a family story to a contest, and won five hundred dollars and the lead position in an anthology. Most of my writing was non-fiction, and I enjoyed that. But having a family story — a story close to my heart — published in a book felt like an enormous blessing.

I’d heard about a woman who edited for a living from her home, so this interested me. I checked with the local community college and found an online editing class and signed up. This way I could add to my writing-related skills, and possibly add another stream of income. If nothing else, it would improve my own writing. After I finished the class, I used my newly acquired knowledge to edit thesis papers for PhD students who couldn’t afford an experienced editor. Later, I helped a psychologist edit a humor book.

My skills were building, and my clips were mountainous. Still, I wasn’t ready to leave the security of my day job. Perhaps I never would have done that, until I was pushed. One day, my boss called me into his office to tell me my job was being eliminated. I was petrified. I had no way to fully replace that income. And the only thing worse than staying in that job was the fear that I’d have to start over elsewhere, still as an accountant.

As it turned out, the push was exactly what I needed. I got a generous severance package that gave me time to get my bearings. Out of fear, I did apply for available accounting jobs, but in spite of excellent qualifications, I never got a single nibble.

With time on my hands, I wrote and edited even more, preparing myself, and looking for opportunities. My Internet searching turned up an ad for a person with an unusual combination of skills. An online business newsletter needed someone with paid experience as a writer and editor. Nothing odd about that. But they also needed someone who understood accounting. Most accountants avoid writing, so this had been a hard position to fill. That is, until they found me. We were perfect for each other.

Not only did they want me to write and edit for them, but they wanted me to do it from my home, on salary, with benefits. They were headquartered three thousand miles away, but that was no problem since every employee worked from his or her own homes. As it turns out, that company and I were made for each other. That was eight years ago. I am still with them, as an author/editor, and I can’t imagine a more generous, upstanding employer.

I also continue to write freelance in the evenings. I’ve been honored to have numerous family stories published in well-known anthologies and other publications. I’m not rich in dollar figures, but in the satisfaction of my work, I’m fabulously wealthy.

Everyone said I couldn’t do it . . . but I did. Whatever your dream, hold tight to it. Figure out how to prepare, then watch for your chance, because “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

~Teresa Ambord

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