Write or Die

Today, I officially became a freelance writer, and I owe it to insanity.
I was too insane to quit.

I was a hustler by day.  Sales.  Straight commission.  Even though I enjoyed my job, the economy was not conducive to selling anything.   While I wasn’t making enough money, I was still afraid to leave the job for the unpredictable world of freelance.  I also recognized I’d never make it as a writer until I knew more about the industry.

So there I was, working the day job and writing whenever I could squeeze in some time.  Sometimes, the lines blurred.  Last spring, I was at a convention answering questions from potential customers as they passed by our booth.  I gazed at them as they strolled by, wondering who they were, what their wounds were, what kind of character they’d make in a story.  My mind was on anything but my “job.”

Then, the “ah-ha” moment hit.

A woman approached, picked up our brochure and asked about our company.  I jumped into my sales pitch, “blah, blah, blahing” her the spin.  During our chat, I asked, “what is it you do now?”  She answers, “Oh, I’m a writer.”  My heart sank.  I wanted to yell, “I’m a writer too!”  But I couldn’t.  I stuffed it down and presented her with my card of my false life.  She was a writer.  I was a salesperson.   I vomited in my mouth.

The next week, I met my writing partner for breakfast.   He noticed my distraction.  I shared my frustration of living a dual life.  Would I ever be free?  He reached across the table, looked straight into my teary eyes, “Jeanne, I am your biggest believer.  You are a writer.”  You’d think, coming from a Pulitzer Prize winner, I would believe him.  I wanted to believe him.

I kept working the job, writing blog posts and connecting with writers.  I soaked up information anywhere I could find it.  I simply wouldn’t give up.  I was readying myself for the opportunity.   When that opportunity finally arrived, it was in the form of Jane Friedman, publisher of Writer’s Digest.

I met Jane on Twitter and pimped out her links and those of her colleagues.   She knew my day job was based in Cincinnati, so when Writer’s Digest had its 90th Anniversary Party, she invited me.  I used my last airmile to get there.

It was a dream come true.  I had found nirvana in that crowded bar full of hippy writers.   I was the real me.   I was smiling so brightly, my face hurt.   Jane opened her arms, literally and figuratively and changed my life.  While drinking and chatting about Twitter, she nonchalantly said, “You should write an article for us on the value of Twitter.”  She was dead serious.

Before my plane took off, I started writing.  I submitted a classic, conservative article along with a how-to list to tweeting.  Jane sweetly replied the article was “solid,” but she wanted a personal essay of my journey through Twitterverse in my own unique voice.  I rolled up my velour sleeves and gave her the pure, raw Twitter Pimp Angel that is Jeanne.

Today, I got an email from Writer’s Digest, making an offer to acquire my submission.   Within two hours, I had the contract signed, scanned and back.

I still don’t know how I did it through the tears.  Yes, tears.  I was bawling.  I’m still crying.  I wish I had the words to describe the validation coursing through me.  It’s more than validation; it’s relief.  All the tension, anxiety, fear, and insanity that is being a writer is pouring out my eyes as the words fly out my fingertips.

The irony is the editor probably has finalized offers with hundreds, maybe thousands of writers.  Today was just one more writer providing the article to fill the empty slot.  But for me, it was a day I will remember forever.  A gift.  A blessing.  A moment of hope.  I am a writer.  I am free.   Freelance.  Damn.  I did it!

What Jane didn’t know was just hours before I walked into that party, I quit my day job.  It was time.  Write or die.

I pray I never forget this feeling or ever take it for granted.

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31 thoughts on “Write or Die

  1. You deserve this Jeanne. Am so proud of you. Deep heartfelt Congrats! Have never thought of you as anything else but a writer. Thought having been a sales rep by day, I absolutely know what you're talking about. And thank you for sharing. Am so glad you rolled up and dished out the velour for Jane and Writer's Digest so they can see how wonderful and talented we all know you are.

  2. So glad for you, no one has worked harder for it. Dreams do come true but only through belief and effort. Some day I'll be sitting in a movie theater watching your name scroll by in the credits.

  3. Jeanne, congratulations, and thank you for this. Last night I decided I was no longer going to let the fear stifle me, but instead drive me. This post gives me the extra boost I needed. Good luck on your new adventure!!

  4. Great post! Found it through @chrisilluminati.I remember publishing my first little article. It was terrifying and great. Now I'm trying to work on fiction projects while maintaining my day job (also in sales of a sort).

  5. Thanks Chris! You're the best xoJessica, I almost didn't post this last night. I ultimately decided to post it just for me… to commemorate the moment. So glad my experience gave you a boost. Cool.Jennifer… love me that @chrisilluminati 😉 Thanks and good luck with your projects!

  6. Amazing to read this perspective – the precious and human details that often remain hidden until later (or never revealed at all!). Humbled & honored to have played a role in what I know will be a very wonderful writing career for you!

  7. Yesterday I made a decision to start turning my life around and live the way I want to live. I made a mental note to send you an email and ask you what you did for a living and what you went through to become a writer.I decided on you because since I started following you on Twitter you are polite, you PIMP out other writers, and there always is an upbeat tone to your writing. Oh and you answer really goofy questions!I get on Twitter just now and I find out you wrote an article based on everything I was going to ask you. So, much for emailing and asking about your story and journey! I send you kudos, rounds of applause, my own tears of happiness, and a "Kicks Ass and Takes Names" sticker. You are now an inspiration for me to follow my dreams. Thank you! Best of luck.

  8. Good luck and congratulations on making the only right decision when you feel as you do about writing. I've only just discovered your blog and reading the posts has made me laugh and cry in the last ten minutes. You have a rare ability to lay your emotions out, raw and real, for others to connect to. You're going to be an amazing professional writer!

  9. Wow! That's amazing. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! OMG … this is such a brilliant moment in your life. That moment of freedom must taste good. Savour babe … enjoy it … and use it to fuel your passion to write. Really, well done. You really deserve it!mxox

  10. Congratulations Jeanne!Fear is a killer, but it seems you've slayed the monster and stepped out into victorious freedom. I'm sure there'll be other dragons to face along the way, but this was the biggest, so draw strength from that always."Life is a daring adventure, or nothing at all" – can't remember who said that, but it was ringing in my ears as I read your post.Once again, congratulations. I look forward to reading more of your adventures.Alex

  11. Thanks, Alex and Faerian. At the top of my MAC is a taped note which reads:"It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult." I try to live each day remembering those words and forcing myself to take the next difficult step forward… even if occasionally I have to take a step backward to get there. xo

  12. A few steps forward, a few back…that's Tango (Smokin'), or (if you fancy something a little more cosmic) 'The Dance of Shiva'- the divine hot-stepper whose groovey-moves lay waste to a weary universe and prepare the way for god Brahma to start the process of creation…..OK, I've clearly had 1 or 3 too many coffees.Over & out.Yep (same Alex, just caffeinated, & photo-free for variety)

  13. Wow. I found you on twitter – #scriptchat and just started following the tweets to your blog. Congrats. I remember when I 'became' a writer- like so many other things in my life i was the last to know. I also did it the 'safe' way- i became a freelance ad/mktg copy writer- though truth be told I read Po Bronson's WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY LIFE? and there was no stopping me- I sat down a wannabe and stood up a no denying it bonafide WRITER. I have the same quote above my MAC- as well as these two- "Skill to do comes of doing"- Emerson and "You are the only person who can write this story" Melissa Bank. The next step is moving to LA. I am breaking into "the biz" full steam ahead- just landed a gig marketing & promoting and online premiere with all the social network bells and whistles… i'm gonna need a twitter Pimp angel. nice to meet you and congrats again! yay! @krizbell

  14. I hate you. [It's like break a leg to an actor]. It means I'm jealous, but not really jealous, more in total admiration and appreciative that you let me share in this moment, and so glad you had the courage to pursue your dream, and that I love you, and I know you'll forgive my run-on sentence. Validation is a writer's gold. I am constantly seeking it. We all have the same passions and self-doubts. Thank you, Jeanne, for giving us that laugh, and that tear, and that boost! Enjoy this moment! You deserve and shall have many more!

  15. Kriz, I love those quotes! My Mac is going to be covered 😉 Mike, I laughed so hard reading "I hate you" hahaha. Your words are so sweet. Thanks so much. I will admit, being able to share the joy with all of you, and maybe give that one writer the courage to keep going one more day, is where the pure joy truly is. Thanks for riding the ride with me.

  16. What a great story! I was invited out of my profession via an economizing lay off. When I went to the unemployment office, the counselor asked me what I wanted to do since my industry is pretty lackluster right now. I said the first and only thing I've ever really wanted to do. "Write.""Yes!" he said, his eyes lighting up. "Good, now.."I cut him off. "But."He'd obviously met people like us before. "But nothing. Just yes. You're a writer, so write."Your story inspires me that there will be a way. Thank you.

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