Since I left my role as a senior reporter for CTV News in November 2015, lots of people have asked why, or asked what I’m doing now.
In reality it was both a move away, and a move toward.
Planeurism (n): that moment your life plan implodes, and your future is suddenly a dark, formless abyss. (see also: panic attack, midlife crisis)
The truth was, I knew I had gone as far as I could go in news. I had accomplished 80% of what I set out to do, and some things I’d never even dreamed of. I knew I was never going to be the next Paula Zahn, Diane Sawyer or Lois Lane.
I was also moving toward something new. Like a dog chasing a fuzzy new tennis ball.
I took what I refer to as my “rebound job” in PR, while I got to work building a writing business in both Toronto and Calgary. It was both exciting and terrifying.
I always wanted to be a writer, in fact that’s how I ended up as a journalist; it involved writing. If I hadn’t been a journalist, my dream job would have been Saturday Night Live sketch writer. (If anyone from SNL is reading this, I have a great sketch about a nursing home for aging musicians, starring Kenon Thompson as Stevie Wonder and Kate McKinnon as Mick Jagger. Call me.)
I never really thought “writer” was a real job, even though I’ve been making my Starbucks money moonlighting as a writer for awhile now and have been working away at my novel for more than a year.
It’s really hard to stop worrying about how I’m going to properly make a living as a writer and realize that -hey- I AM properly making a living as a writer.
One of my first clients is still my biggest client. I am so grateful to this amazing company and its brilliant leadership for trusting me, and giving me so much opportunity.
This client also taught me my number one writer/ boss babe lesson: a working writer needs to know how to do more than write. I do PR strategy and PR tactical, design work and layout, script writing, client interview and research.
For other clients, I do video or photography plus writing.
To me, the answer to the question “how can a person make a living as a writer?” is “by being more than a writer.”
I have plenty of good prep for this, because my advice for anyone who wants to make a living as a journalist (besides “give your head a shake” or “go to law school instead”) is “do whatever it takes.” In that regard and many others, the two careers aren’t all that different, really.
Actually, my real best advice for writer/boss babes is “get an accountant.” Trust me, you’ll thank yourself for that someday.
*Desk contents in flatlay photo, clockwise from left
- My vintage Olivetti typewriter, Craigslist, $30.
- Girl Guide reporting badge, Brownie writing badge.
- A compass my husband bought me when I left news.
- Best writing guide I know, Stephen King’s ‘On Writing.’
- Post-its. A news director once told me to write everything like it’s on a Post-it: make it stick, don’t be afraid to throw it out.
- A gold stapler. Make the most mundane tasks fancy.
- My first writing award, eighth grade. Inexplicably has bowling pins on it.
- Turtle totem. According to my hero Martha Beck, writers need to keep slowly plodding & have tough shells. Love it.
- My fourth grade writing journal. Good reminder that I once did this for fun & no money, and I can always go back.
- My writing journals from just the last year.
- My dad’s awesome vintage Canon 35 mm.
- Jar of pens: if the words aren’t coming, try another colour.