Monday, July 28, 2014

This Writing Life 2: How I got here.

The final step was losing my job.

The first step was thirty-five years earlier in grade 3 at William Grayson School in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, when I decided to write a book.

It wasn’t original – the characters and stories came from comics I was reading. It probably wasn’t that good because, hey, I was nine. But it was ten pages double sided in my duo-tang and I thought it was pretty impressive.

That was when I started writing.

I wrote stories continuously, but never thought of submitting them. And while the family might have been impressed and my granddad liked my writing, at no time did anyone suggest “you could make a living from this.” It wasn’t something my family (and therefore I) saw as a career path.

By the time I finished high school I wanted to be an actor. I studied theatre in university.  I moved to Toronto, discovered fight directing and learned how to do that. I finished my first novel but didn’t do anything with it. I met the woman who became my wife. I supported myself doing contract work for charities while not so much pursuing as stumbling blindly after an elusive acting career at a time when the film industry in Toronto was flagging.

My wife decided to leave the theatre to find steady work. We decided to have a child and so I left the theatre too and searched for a career. I tried working as a fundraiser and discovered I was terrible at it. Then I got hired by Manage My Home to be their staff writer.

I wrote more than 150 Home Maintenance articles in a two-year period. And if you think you can’t find more than 150 things to talk about in home maintenance, you’ve never owned a house. I have.

We bought it because we were both making good money and we had a child. I published my first novel, and for the first time writing seemed like a viable career. Everything seemed right. Except it wasn’t.

Our marriage started falling apart. We went to counselling. Manage My Home was bought by a much larger company who didn’t believe in having staff writers and I lost my job. We quit counselling so I could focus on finding a job. I went to school at night and got a certificate in Corporate Communications. I was hired by Trillium Health Centre, making better money than before.

Things righted themselves for a while. We went back to counselling, and I wrote my second published novel in 2-hour slots from 10 p.m. to midnight while my wife and little girl were asleep. I lived on six or less hours sleep a night for a year and somewhere in the midst of it all we realized our marriage was over.

We sold the house, separated and moved into apartments close to our daughter’s new school. And just as things were sorting themselves out, Trillium Health Centre merged with another hospital and I lost my job again.

They were very nice about it. They set me up with one of the best employment agencies in Canada and sent me home.

Where I stewed.

I didn't want to work in offices anymore. I didn't want to drive two hours a day to get to and from work.

I didn’t go to the employment agency, or take their courses. Instead, I started wondering about starting my own business; one where I write and people pay me for it.

So I did.

Which leads us to next week's post: How I make a living at this.

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