Working Backwards

The path to career success for many follows a time-worn tradition. Often, it’s off to college for a degree. Nowadays, the degree must be “marketable.” And then after that, an advanced degree is almost always expected, if not immediately, then down the road once you are established at the firm. Increasingly, all those initials after your name come with a hefty price tag and mountains of debt.

I’ve never followed convention, or the traditional college track.

My own “education” seems ass backwards according to the ways of the world. The journey of reinvention I’ve been on for more than a decade began later in life. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I’m finding that my DIY ways and quirky approach to making a living is more of an advantage than a liability.

The approach I’ve taken to becoming a writer also trod a road less traveled. No MFA, and no English major, either. I didn’t go to J-School to acquire my journalistic skills.

And yet, here I am, 12 years further down the road. I’ve accomplished many things I only dreamed would happen when I walked away from my Moscow Mutual cubicle in January, 2004.

Last October, I knew I needed to update my writing clips as a freelance writer. I landed a gig for a few months writing about consumer goods for the financial website, The Motley Fool. It wasn’t Pulitzer Prize investigative journalism, but these opened doors elsewhere. 2014 has been a really good year, rejoining the freelance writing community.

My son, Mark, reminds me from time to time to, “just keep doing what you’re doing.”

Thanks, Mark. Your advice and admonition continues serving me well.


2 thoughts on “Working Backwards

  1. Everyone needs to find their own path and people interested in pursuing the arts really ought to consider alternative methods. I only earned a B.A. in English and instead of pursuing an MFA I decided to head to NYC and work in the publishing business. I worked as an accounting clerk at a literary agency. My day job was entry-level and consisted mostly of data entry and filing, but at least it was in the publishing industry. That job led to ghostwriting gigs and eventually helped me get a great agent. Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom–you never know where it might lead.

    The path to being published is supposed to be easier with an advanced degree, but it’s hard to beat the contacts you make with real-world experience. I look at my friends who pursued graduate degrees in writing and see how they are still deeply in debt and wonder if it’s worth it.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie. I love it when other Maine writers offer their thoughts on something I’ve written.

    I concur with you about there not being “one” path to becoming a writer. It really is about finding your own way forward, whatever that might be and no matter how long it takes.

    There are always those writers who get a big book deal just out of school, or some great-paying weekly column handed to them. I’m not sure if that’s the ideal, either. Writing is hard work, as you know. Success requires making a commitment and a pact to stay with it.

    I’ve had to take 9 to 5 jobs over the past 12 years to keep money in the till and my writing alive. In fact, I’ve done a host of things, including schlepping sausages in supermarkets, just to keep on writing.

    The longer I stay at it, however, I hit milestones and goals that years before were merely hopes and dreams.

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