I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t have a story.
Don’t get me wrong—men have stories, too. However, if you’re a woman in business and you want to connect with other women, there’s no better way to start than with your own, unique branded story.
This isn’t fiction: it’s a retelling of how you became interested in what you’re currently doing, the transformation that followed, the struggles and your ultimate (or in-progress) victory.
Why am I thinking about this right now?
I was contacted by a lovely young lady this morning, asking for help with her Facebook page. People were starting to follow, but they just weren’t buying. I helped her out. Gave her loads of suggestions for increasing engagement on that Facebook page—for serving her dream customers so she could eventually sell to them.
In the course of our work, we got to talking about stories, and how they endear our brands to the people who need our products and services the most.
And that naturally led us to exchange our own stories. Hers involved her husband losing his job, her two small children, and her quest to find open windows after so many doors had closed.
She’s still close to the beginning of her journey, but she’s on the right track and I look for her to create something great. If you’d like to show your support, go here.
We didn’t have much time to go into my story (she had to go because she also works as a real estate agent and busy patient navigator for a cancer services program), but I promised her I’d write it and ultimately share it.
By the time my story was in motion, I still hadn’t the slightest idea what was intended for me. While the other kids were playing soccer or hanging with friends (you know, being cool), I was learning to type. I was writing letters to my future self (with subject lines like, To Those I Will Serve) and reading so ravenously that I was actually struck by a Buick while crossing Main Street…reading a book, of course.
By the time high school graduation came around, I had already dubbed my literature teacher an English Goddess, and felt like I was on the cusp of something great. I would become a writer. I would craft a novel that would break new ground and tell a story so gripping that it might just get me into heaven.
And then…I let someone convince me that I should stick with my dispatching job at a local construction company—that being a writer wasn’t a real job, and that college was a waste of time and money, especially for someone like me, who came from a working class family.
I spent the next 15 years feeling like a shell. Not quite human; not quite dead.
It wasn’t until I picked up a pen and one of my kids’ discarded notebooks at 2 am, just after my 30th birthday, that I discovered what had been missing. It was the written word, and with it came the feeling of full, unhindered expression. I discovered that night what I had been denying all along: writing wasn’t just a hobby, or something that could become a job. I needed it to cope, to move forward and to make connections—all the things that most people can accomplish without it.
And so, the next day, I gave my boss two weeks’ notice. I quit my job.
Just like that. I couldn’t believe it myself. I hadn’t made plans. I hadn’t given the daycare sufficient notice. My God, what was I thinking? Was this the most irresponsible thing a wife and mother had ever done?
Did my husband have the income to support us all? Nope.
Did I have any reason to believe I could make money? Nope.
Did I think I could live another day without doing this thing that was like speaking and breathing for most people? Nope.
Did I wonder if I had lost my mind? Absolutely.
And so, we struggled for years with paying the bills and keeping our kids’ dreams alive. I found a few clients on freelancer sites willing to pay me a couple bucks for all-night work by candlelight, begged for references and gave away samples for free in hopes that someone would have pity on me and write a contract.
Years passed. I worked. I prayed. I refused to let anyone (especially myself) believe that I’d ruined my life and those of the people who relied on me.
And then it happened. The phone rang and on the other end was what I thought was an apocalyptic joke. The voice (and name) was that of a well-known nightly news personality. She had been following my work and had gotten a recommendation from a friend (for whom I’d done some work). She wanted me to write her book and she was going to pay me more than I could have made in a year working full-time.
That one phone call blossomed into lots of wonderful things. I feel like I’ve learned more than I could have in those four years of college that I had once wanted so much. And I suspect that the struggle (the peanut butter sandwiches, the borax in the laundry and the holes in my socks) have made me a better writer. I have been blessed with a steady stream of work, and I promised myself years ago that I would never take that for granted.
Now, I’m in a place where the people who need me (and whom I need, too) seem to find me. I can’t give away the most recent plot twists of my story, as they will be released in an upcoming publication. However, I can say this: even I can’t believe the cosmic amazement of it all.
I really do believe that the universe rewards us when we make decisions that align with its energy. I think that intellect is only a small part of how we should be making decisions, and that fear is stopping too many women (and men) from fulfilling their purpose.
I would love to hear your stories. About how it felt when you followed your intuition, even if it didn’t make sense on paper. I’d love to hear the story of how you got started on the journey you now know is meant for you (or isn’t meant for you). It’s not just about the decisions we make; it’s also about the people we meet along the way and how they affect our journeys . Let’s talk about it. Because after all, I believe everyone has a story to tell.
To the young lady I was so happy to connect with today: Thank You. Your words took me back to a place I once was and that fashioned my worldview into something I’m thankful for every day. I’m still not rich. But guess what? I don’t give a rat’s ass. I’m happy, and that’s priceless.
Are you struggling with the decision to throw caution to the wind and become a freelance writer? Or have you been struggling with following your dream, no matter what it may be? I want to hear from you. I am compiling a collection of stories about people who broke the mold and followed their dreams…while the rest of the world told them they would fail. Simply comment here, contact me through my Facebook business page, or email me.
Jacinda, we’ve been blogfriends for years, but I didn’t know that was your story. What an endorsement for following your heart – and what tenacity it took.
I also have a story along similar lines. I was always an arty kid. When I got into the adult world I started working in a publisher of business titles. I was very proud to be making books, but somewhat bored by the subject matter.
One of our titles was a careers newspaper for graduates. It was supposed to show students the wonderful opportunities in store once they flew into the world with their shiny degree. Instead, it ran articles about a narrow choice of jobs in insurance, retail and banking, and nothing arty at all because the magazine was funded by advertising and that’s what the advertisers wanted. I became editor and tried to pep it up by commissioning more adventurous articles. The publisher would humour me, then replace them on press day with yet another article about becoming a patent officer. Squashing my magazine, squashing the hopes of students who wanted a fulfilling life. People who wanted to find a vocation, not just a job.
I moved to a production job on a construction magazine (glamorous!) and met a writer. Suddenly I was among people who wrote – and talked about it. Reader, I married him. I burst into a creative life. I was surrounded by people who got published, and regularly. I queried short story magazines and literary agents. I was told ‘you’re too literary for an SF mag’ or ‘you should write for SF mags’. In truth, I didn’t write SF, but I liked a dash of the strange. These days, Kate Atkinson gets away with it in Life After Life, but in those days Amateur Roz got told to choose a box and learn to fit it.
I got a chance to rewrite a ghostwritten book when a publisher changed the brief. I did it and a new career started.
I took voluntary redundancy, and instead of looking for another magazine job I went to the literary side. I ghostwrote novels, including some for a big name (though I didn’t know HOW big he was). I continued with my own books. I mentored for a literary consultancy. I went to a book launch. I met agents and Big 5 publishers who asked me what I did. I told them who I’d written for. They fell over. They demanded my email address and when I got home they queried ME. Yes. Send us your novel, they said.
I did, all a-quiver. The answers came back. ‘Can’t you write something more like those ghostwritten bestsellers’? I liked ghosting, but I also wanted to write as me. Otherwise I’d have got another job.
Eventually I found an agent who took a chance on my own book. My real book. But the ghost of my ghosted work was following me anyway. ‘Can’t she make it more like [insert name of megaselling author]?’
It would have been simple to dash one off. But I didn’t have the heart. I selfpublished my first novel. It got reviews from total strangers, people who understood better than I did what I was trying to do. I’d found my place. I selfpublished my second novel and it was longlisted for the World Fantasy Award alongside Neil Gaiman (despite not being fantasy – it’s that box-fitting problem again). I selfpublished a quirky travel memoir and it’s been featured on BBC radio stations all around the country.
Which is why I’m glad I stuck to being me.
And this ended up longer than I expected! Sorry!
Thanks so much for sharing, Roz. I have always had great respect for your writing, and now it’s even better that I can see the story behind the story. I will catalog this, and if we get enough interest from other free spirits, I will be in touch. Way to go, girl. You stuck with it and now look at you!
And thank you, Jacinda! This might grow into a lovely project. Keep me posted!