Go Ahead…Just Try to Tell Me I Can’t Do It!

March 9, 2011

Like Cynthia, my published work is non-fiction, however I wrote magazine and newspaper articles and columns, not books.

I never considered writing as a possible career; it was “just a hobby.” I was a 21-year-old stay-at-home mom with a 9-month-old baby. Clearly I was an expert on parenting, so I put together a couple of sample articles for a parenting column titled “Parent to Parent.” Samples in hand, I waltzed into the office of our small local newspaper and asked to see the editor. Who knew that I should put together a query and send it by mail, or at least make an appointment? Certainly not me! Amazingly, the editor met with me and actually liked the column enough to publish it weekly and pay me $5 a week. Parent to Parent ran for a few months until I went back to college and didn’t have time for my “little hobby.”

A couple of years later I was a single mom, going to school. I wanted to be a lawyer, and it just so happened that I was dating a lawyer. I decided it would be fun to use some of the information I was learning and write a consumer law column for the local newspaper. We had a new paper with a much larger circulation than the one that had published my parenting column. I told my boyfriend what I planned to do and after he stopped laughing hysterically, he told me, “Tari, you have no law background. There’s no way in (insert expletive here) that they’re going to give you a law column.”

Now I don’t like being told there’s something I can’t do, so I put together some sample articles, and a little portfolio of clips from my parenting column and once again waltzed into the office of a local newspaper, asking to see the editor. Clearly, I still didn’t know this wasn’t appropriate publishing etiquette. Once again the editor must have been bored, because he was willing to see me. He looked over my samples and clips, told me it was an interesting idea, and said he’d ‘let me know’.

I fantasized about sashaying into my attorney boyfriend’s office, leaning over his desk and slapping the newspaper with a copy of column in front of him, but a few weeks later I still hadn’t heard from the editor when I got a frantic phone call from my boyfriend. “What the (insert the same expletive here) did you do? This isn’t funny!” I didn’t know what he was talking about, but after a few minutes, and an angry explanation, it became very clear what had happened, and I thought it was VERY funny.

Apparently, the editor had decided he liked my column, but he hadn’t told me, and had published one of my ‘samples.’ The column was about will planning and offered a free will planning guide from The Law Offices of My Former Boyfriend if the reader mailed a self-addressed stamped envelope to his post office box. He had arrived at work that morning to find dozens of requests for a will-planning guide that didn’t exist all accompanied by a copy of my column. (Don’t tell me there’s something I can’t do!)

A year later I was still playing around with writing as my “little hobby” and sent a query letter to The Toastmaster a magazine produced by Toastmaster’s International, a public speaking organization. I worked full time for a car dealership and had a 4-year-old son to support. The day I lost my job I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I hadn’t finished school, and my job skills were limited. The phone was ringing as I opened my front door, and I raced to answer it. It was the editor of The Toastmaster. They were putting the finishing touches on an issue devoted to the topic ‘listening,’ and all of the articles were on improving your listening skills. Not knowing about the special issue, I had proposed an article on ‘how to get people to listen to you.’ The editor liked the twist and wanted to know if I could get it to her by the end of the week. I had no job, so of course I could. The pay was more than I’d ever made for a column. I decided to take a chance and try freelance writing as a career instead of a hobby.

After The Toastmaster article, like Cynthia, I wrote only on assignment. I would propose an article and send copies of published clips, or an editor that I had already worked with would call me and give me an assignment. When I wrote, I knew I was getting paid.

So here I am, a few years later. My kids are all in college, and I’m ready to try my hand at fiction. I’ve written many short stories (but always for myself), and I have one nearly finished book that I wrote years ago, but this is the first time that I’ve really considered writing fiction as “a real job.” Only like Cynthia and Elley, I have to write with no guarantee. The motivation has to come from me not the promise of a paycheck when I meet my deadline.

Can I do it? Just try to tell me I can’t!

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3 Responses to “Go Ahead…Just Try to Tell Me I Can’t Do It!”

  1. Margey Says:

    Well, Tari, you sure have a way with words when writing “Fact”!! I always enjoy your work.

    I look forward to reading your “Fiction” = )

  2. taristhread Says:

    Thanks Margey!! I can hardly wait to have some fiction to share!!

  3. Cynthia Says:

    My first book is dedicated to my brother who, when I told him I was going to write a book said, suggested I start with something smaller.

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