Karen Karbo asked me to participate in a “Live Like Juila” celebration and write a post inspired by one of her new book’s chapters. The book is Julia Child Rules – Lessons on Savoring Life and my chapter, “#9 Make the World Your Oyster” was fun and interesting, two of my favorite things. A deadly combination. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it, and heartily suggest you get a copy yourself!
I decided to share the story of how I lost me and then found me again after lying about how cool I was to a national magazine editor, doing a lot of driving, being a boring nerd and having a life-changing dream.
Writing is My Pearl
I always wanted to be a writer. When I was really little, I wrote “Winnie the Pooh,” complete with crayon drawings. Oh, those idyllic days before copyright infringement. Actually, it was a slightly different and infinitely worse story using the Pooh character, so really, I was ahead of my time, Star Wars franchise speaking-wise. Disney should have hired me on the spot.
Through high school and college I wrote stories, authored a book or two I never really sent anywhere, won a couple little contests and freelanced for magazines. I thought I’d made it when Steve Hawk, editor for Surfer Magazine called me to let me know that not only were they going to buy my “Colleges for Surfers” article, but that their East Coast Editor had recently left and would I be interested in being the East Coast Editor of Surfer Magazine?
Actually, the thing I remember most clearly about that conversation was that I called him back from a phone booth. A phone booth. Where did I get that kind of loose change to call California from a phone booth?
My second clearest memory is Mr. Hawk, just about to hang up, thinking to ask: “You do surf, right?”
“Of course!” I chirped.
…I’d never surfed was the rest of that sentence. “Of course I’ve never surfed.”
White lie or unfinished sentence? Too tough to call.
Sorry about that, Hawk, you hired a dork.
Thus began five glorious years of driving up and down the East Coast, hanging out with pre-pubescent surfer kids and staying in hotels I wouldn’t stay in now if I was on the lam. I was at Surfer’s tiny East Coast helm for the beginning of Kelly Slater’s career and got to interview him and hang out at the same parties, which is a fun fact to tell people, but really… that and $9.99 will get me a coffee at Starbucks.
But even with my stunning $600 a month salary (and no, it wasn’t 1920 – it just wasn’t what you call a “real job”) it was tough to make ends meet. Freelance writing, even before everyone in the world did it, was not a ticket to riches. So I wrote a book called The Surfer’s Guide to Florida which was published by Pineapple Press and though it sold out pretty quickly, it made me very little money. I turned my research for the book into a series of surf maps, and taught myself to use Photoshop and Illustrator to lay them out. Then I drove up and down the coast selling decorative treasure maps of surf spots.
Equipped with my new Photoshop skills, I realized I could make more money if I offered to layout brochures for people in addition to writing. Then I discovered AOL and thought, “I can probably make these web page thingies.”
Next thing you know, I’d stopped writing. I was a web page designer in a time when everyone wanted a web page.
I quickly hired a bunch of people to work for Vansant Creations Web Development, just to make sure I personally would not keep any of the money from this little boom.
Whew. Close one.
The Internet became corporate web sites to me. I didn’t pay any attention to the web’s more fun and social aspects. You’d think, as a writer, I would have jumped on the blogging bandwagon before the word “blog” was even uttered, but no. Writing Amy was dead. My life was just one Chamber of Commerce Meeting after another. Even when my business radically slowed after 9/11, and I ceased hiring, eventually becoming a company of one, I remained Web Development Amy.
It’s how I afforded food. Don’t judge.
Then, in 2009, I had a dream. It was stupid, and made less sense the more I tried to recall it, but it was a story. An awesome, epic story. I woke up with this need to write it out as a novel.
That’s when it hit me: I hadn’t written anything in 13 years. THIRTEEN YEARS. What the hell happened to me? What happened to Writing Amy, the girl who always knew what she was going to do for a living?
I started working on my contemporary fantasy novel. The writing wheels were creaky.
About that time, someone on Facebook (which I had grudgingly joined only a year or so earlier) said they thought my posts were funny and I should start a blog.
A blog? I’d heard the word of course, but Web Page Amy hadn’t given it a second thought. But reborn Writing Amy… YES! A BLOG!
All the blogs I researched had funny titles that vaguely revealed their author’s passions. I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself to a topic, so I thought I’d keep it broad and just describe my life with Mike. I chose “Kid-Free Living” for a title. After all, Mike and I seemed to have a lot more spare time than our friends, which usually translated into fun. Plus, the domain was available. I didn’t think about the fact that people would assume my blog was a giant diatribe against having kids, but ah well. Too late.
So what does all this have to do with Julia and oysters?
I’m starting late. I’m starting over. But Writing Amy is back. I feel like I lost a limb and had it replaced. I’ve got one novel I’m shopping to agents and another I’m working on now. And every time my blog starts to wear me out, I double down and find a way to re-energize my efforts. At the moment, I’m trying to add more content from other sources and turn Kid-Free Living into more of a humor magazine of aggregated content, anchored by my own weekly humor posts. Next week I’ll turn it into a ice cream shop. I dunno. I’m making it all up as I go along.
The odds are 99.1% pure that I won’t get rich and famous this time around as a writer either, but my writing world is the pearl in my oyster again. My brain is on fire with creativity and fun again. I’ve made the world my oyster again, even if I’m they only one who eats it.
And I feel whole.