Could it be yours, too?
By Di Chapman
I have a weird profession. It’s never been weird to me, mind you, but for over 40 years, whenever I give my so-called “title,” the response is blank stares and “Say what?” Even after I explain it, I must give examples of it. Apparently, I’m one of the few people on the planet who has ever decided to do this for a living.
So, here goes. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I am (and have been since I was 23) a working writer. And no, I don’t do fiction. I’m lousy at fiction. “What do you do for your day job?” I’m asked. Writing. You know the cereal boxes you read? (It seems like reading cereal boxes is a universal pastime.) Skincare packaging? Protein bar wrappers? Brochures? Your doctor’s website? Yeah, I’m the one. Not to mention I was considered among the best resume writers in the world. It’s true. Everyone was so surprised because I would greet clients in fishnets and short skirts, about six feet tall in heels. Jaws dropped. “You’re a writer?” They apparently expected a frumpy woman in orthopedic shoes, and told me so. This was during the stone age, when I sent documents via fax for approvals. Back then, there were three things that could throw you into spasms with gnashing of teeth: computers, paper jams, and fax machines.
My writing career started with an interview process for my first corporate job. It included a writing test. I aced it. That essay launched my career. I became a corporate writer for five divisions of a huge retail corporation.
I was the young woman who wrote pages upon pages every week for training materials, scripts for multimedia productions and videos, and the instructional documents for new processes and procedures. There were perks with the job. I traveled throughout the U.S. as a trainer utilizing the manuals I’d composed. I worked in New Orleans numerous times, Vegas, Salt Lake, Albuquerque, Houston, and heaven knows how many others.
There were good times among grueling work schedules. With manuals in hand for a store opening in New Orleans, I tried my first cigarette to join a store manager who told me, “I only smoke during store openings.” Well, that’s what I was there for, I reasoned. In my novice attempt, I managed to inhale into a coughing fit and light the wrong end of the cig. Experiment over.
Back in the office, I was the girl who had the job that nobody could figure out. “What do you do, again?” I was often interrupted for a “special project,” that quite truthfully was dumped on me by an executive who couldn’t figure out what I was doing and needed something done that had nothing to do with it.
These were the olden days, before desktop publishing. We wrote our compositions in longhand and handed them to secretaries who typed the crude documents into word processing machines the size of refrigerators. We writers worked long hours to meet the perfectionist expectations of our leader. “No carpooling, and no leaving at 5:00,” we were told in no uncertain terms. At 23, I was up for anything, including hours in the “copy center.” (Heard that term lately?) We sweet-talked the ”copy guys” into putting our 1000 pages before anyone else’s when our jobs required documents for the next day. That did not replace the inevitable, “Dang, the boss needs 25 more copies!” that required sitting on the copiers until midnight. I can’t believe we never thought of amusing ourselves by photocopying our butts as the hours ticked by.
My business writing segued easily into its own retail writer-for-hire operation, then into health and fitness writing, and ultimately, inspirational and humorous composition. Books awaited me down the path.
Honestly, I wasn’t surprised. The talent of writing is one of those things that tugs at you all of your life, and indeed, you are compelled to do it. I, for example, found myself rewriting comic strip dialogues when I was eight. “Peanuts” was a favorite. I cut out the characters, glued them onto construction paper, and made new dialogue balloons. Then, I “bound” the pages into a “book” using a hole puncher and yarn. Voila!
I also found my inspiration in Erma Bombeck’s writing. I studied her work constantly. I definitely wanted to be her. Later, I would always choose essay questions over multiple-choice tests. (Who does that? Only moi.) I’d score 100%. Assign me a paper, and I was golden.
When anyone says to me, “I’d like to be a writer, but I don’t have time. How have you found time?” Really? It is how I use my time. If you’re thinking about becoming a writer, consider these ABCs:
A. Can you boldly procrastinate?
Every self-respecting writer is a world champion procrastinator. Scoop the litter box. Feed the cat—again. Do the laundry (my favorite). Vacuum. Sweep the doorstep. I once took a hand vac and sucked up all the spider webs on the porch. Yes, procrastination.
B. Do you keep a pen and tablet next to the toilet?
Inspiration can come at any time. Trust me.
C. Can you be oblivious to mayhem?
I once was in a stream of consciousness when a truck crashed through my office window. I didn’t even look up from writing. Until, “What the heck?”
D. Can you handle being painfully bloated?
In “vintage” times, we saw images of writers at typewriters with overflowing ashtrays and cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. Nowadays, we’re binging on chips, popcorn, nuts, candy, and ice cream. You must break into the M&M’s. Period. It’s mandatory.
E. Do you love coffee and/or caffeinated drinks?
They’re required consumption. See point F.
F. Can you pull all-nighters?
If writing is your calling—find a copy center at midnight, fire up a machine, and photocopy your booty. Do it for me. Better late than never.
Di Chapman is an inspirational author and speaker, and a branding consultant. Di’s latest book is Rekindle Your Purpose: Break through your disappointments, discouragements, and detours to resurrect your purpose and live it! Contact Di at firstname.lastname@example.org