Flatlay

 

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.
Somehow in 15 years in news, I avoided seven rounds of layoffs. Sticking around for much longer seemed like, as they say in blackjack, hitting on 19.
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I had some personal reasons for going. What felt like my 97th story about domestic violence that ended in a woman’s tragic death, and the two most negative elections of my career caused a little “pop” in my brain. I call it my “planeurism.”
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.