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.