The Five Absolutes For Reinventing Yourself
On the set of Make Your Life Healthy
Follow Your Dreams
Most of us have, at one time or another, dreamed of reinventing ourselves. Of fresh starts, new careers, freedom from a 9-5 job and doing what we really love to do! Whether that involves changing careers or changing positions within your career, change can be scary and for some people, the fear stops them from achieving their reality.
But many of us (myself included!) will get the chance for a total “makeover” at some point of our lives. Mine came when my sales management job was “eliminated.” Although my work was sales, for 30 years in the publishing industry, my passion has always been writing and I always wrote “on the side.” I wrote for more than 20 national magazines, traveled with my husband who is a contractor with a photography passion, and we photographed events, weddings, homes, quilts, and more. He did the photography, I did the articles—a perfect match! But real life often got in the way for both of us and after about 10 years of magazines, it quietly slid to the back burner.
When my position ended abruptly, our youngest son was in college and we were just beginning the empty-nest phase of our life. After many discussions, I decided that what I really wanted to do was find a job writing full time.
Absolute One: Don’t let fear stop you from following your dreams.
So I took a low-paying job as a reporter at a nearby weekly paper. What I learned while there was an amazing way of writing “without the fluff” as my editor put it. Soon I was the lead reporter doing 10-15 stories each week and often the photos to accompany them for our paper.
In little more than a year, I took over as editor at our own community paper, which was owned by the same corporation. There I was the ONLY reporter, editor, letter-answerer, receptionist, photographer, layout person and on and on and on. The paper had been sorely neglected and was down to a 4 to 8 page “driveway kill” weekly – sad but true. As a one-person office with an excited new leader, we quickly regained our momentum, I was able to hire some intern reporters and within a few months we were up to 28 to 32 pages again.
But the life of an editor is a lot of hours for a very low salary. It consumes your time, energy and creativity. I had no time to write the way I once did, or to do anything other than crank out 45-50 articles each week.
Eventually, I resigned as the editor and they brought in some real help. I stayed on as Lifestyle Editor and wrote for the paper in a part-time capacity for the next 18 months while I was preparing to launch my own publishing company. The newspaper gave me some income while I got things going. At one point I began selling ads at a local radio station as well.
Absolute Two: Make sure you have enough income to eat.
When I finally had my ducks in a row, I found an illustrator and published my first three children’s books. Over the next five years we published 65 books, 15 by me and 50 by other authors. But it seemed we were on the cusp of massive changes in the book industry. My small independent book stores couldn’t pay their bills and they began closing right and left. Soon we lost a couple of our large distributors and four years ago we stopped production, eventually closing out our remaining inventory.
Back to square one. I love to write but really needed the income from a “job.” I started writing whatever came along, contacting my connections and writing their press releases, newsletters, resumes, business cards, post cards, radio and TV ads. At the same time, I began revamping my novel. I honed my creative skills again and made another detour on my already intricately woven career path.
Absolute Three: Surround yourself with supportive family, friends and colleagues.
It is funny how one connection leads to another. Three years ago while attending a networking meeting for the first time, I met a lady who was opening a B&B and had done nothing yet to publicize it! My forte! I wrote their press releases, designed their brochures, photographed their charming Country Lodge and helped them launch their business. It was and continues to be, a great success story of its own.
I continued to gather enough connections to meet our monthly bills, (although there were times when I sent out resumes for a “real” job again!)
Little did I know, I was about to do another makeover.
The owner of the B&B had just moved back to our area from California where he was a music composer for many TV programs. In fact, he is a 9-time Emmy winning composer! He called me one day and said he had taken a job as the VP of Production for a new TV network. He wondered what I would charge to write a TV script for their soon-to-be medical news program.
Absolute Four: Learn all you can about what you want to do—Hone your skills.
I have done a lot of script writing over the years, mostly for plays and local productions, but a few for TV programs, movie scripts (which were never filmed) and I even took a three day screenwriting workshop. So I thought about it and gave him a price a few days later.
A couple of weeks went by and he called again. What would I charge to write a “spec script” for them? I played with numbers, the time involved, (I have no medical background), how much research, etc. and gave him a number.
A couple more weeks went by and he called again, asking me to go ahead with the spec script. They would like to see what I thought. He said to write it like I would like to see it presented—no boundaries, no guidelines, my own creation. So I did. I sent it over to him and within a couple of days received a call back.
“We love the script and want you to host the program.” Silence isn’t always golden. I was speechless.
I have never been in front of the camera—we do not own a video recorder; we have never had video or TV experience. This would definitely be a learning experience. He told me what the long-term financial goals were, but keep in mind this was a fledgling TV network. What the heck—I thought I would give it a try. With the help of our church videographer and one of my best friends, we set up a make-shift set in the basement of our church and filmed the “pilot” for my show.
They loved it! I solicited help from family, friends and our local PBS station to train us on this new, no-pay adventure. We began filming every other week in their studio and on site, for the next 24 months. Our TV program, Make Your Life Healthy is now syndicated in 16 cities nationwide and was just picked up by a new network which will begin airing in 240 more markets in September. We have filmed 50 regular programs and 13 specials. We are now gearing up for our fall production schedule.
Absolute Five: Never pass up a new opportunity—you have no idea where it will lead you.
But wait—there is more. In my connections with doctors and health-care professionals, I have been able to build my writing business to make decent money, (while waiting for the residuals of our TV program to come through), and continue to gain experience and do what I love.
A local client introduced me to a long-distance friend who needed some “social makeover” writing and I began writing for him. One of the projects of this pro-baseball player, is to market his story, his writings and his amazing career.
I am now writing a movie treatment for his upcoming Hollywood-produced story and hope to get the contract to write the screenplay.
This is why I write.
This is what I love.
This is my gift.
I love every moment of being on the keyboard and in front of my monitor.
I still have a quote on my wall which I “borrowed” from a book more than 40 years ago. It says “Writing is like prostitution:
First you do it for fun, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money.”
If you are willing to take a journey, sometimes with your eyes closed, feeling for the steps which may be covered with leaves and riddled with potholes, reinventing your self can be an incredible excursion.