Time for a new interview in my Begin Again series. This time we meet Lisa who spent years teaching English and Journalism which is a career that she wanted to do since she was a child. But sometimes, even dream careers change and Lisa tells us how she went from teaching to writing.
Can you please introduce yourself, tell us what you do and where you do it?
I’m Lisa. I am a reformed high school English teacher turned freelance writer. I am currently self-employed and work from my home. In addition to writing, I also do occasional proofreading and editing as well as private academic tutoring.
You were a school teacher for 14 years. Is this something that you’ve always wanted to do?
As far back as I can remember, I think my desires and my choices led me to a career in teaching. Even before I was a high school teacher, I was involved in community and volunteer work that involved teaching, and previous jobs often involved teaching in some capacity. When I was a little girl, my favorite game of pretend was “playing school” with my dolls and stuffed animals, younger sister, cousins, parents – anyone I could convince to participate.
You taught High School English and Journalism. What did you find satisfying about this career? What wasn’t so satisfying?
I always find it satisfying when a student – or anyone, really – is moved and affected by the written word. Whether that is a newspaper article, a literary class, or a contemporary piece is irrelevant. Seeing someone make a connection between themselves and what they read (or write, really) is a wonderful thing. It was also very satisfying to see our school publications go from concept to finished product over the course of the year. Seeing the students apply what they learned in class to a real-life project and earn recognition for their work from their teachers and peers was very rewarding. It was a satisfying career overall – until it wasn’t.
I see that you were also a martial arts instructor? When did you have time to learn and teach that?
Assistant instructor, yes. It was sort of an organic development. In my early 20s, I began studying martial arts. Soon after I joined the organization’s staff as a program director. For the next several years I held that position, continued my training, and ended up assisting with instruction as well.
In my blog, I write a lot about trying new things and people who start over. You decided to end your career as a school teacher to work at home as a freelance writer. What was the catalyst that made it happen?
I can’t say it was any one thing, really. It was more a series of events and life changes that led me to realize that there was another life for me to lead and that life no longer happened to be in the high school classroom.
What was your first paid piece and where was it published?
My first paid freelance work was for editing and proofreading, rather than writing. My first paid writing jobs were private contracts for businesses and some ghostwriting.
Can you tell us what you’re working on now and where we can find your work?
Right now I maintain my blog, The Meaning Of Me, where I write in various forms about life and all it encompasses. Sometimes my work is fiction, sometimes non-fiction, but I always aim to keep the focus on living a life with purpose. I am working on a children’s book series for the 3-7 age group and a series of board books for preschool-aged children. I am also working on my first sci-fi novel, a collection of short fiction, and a non-fiction project inspired by real-life experiences for later publication.
I write as Author in Residence for Open Thought Vortex Magazine. I have very recently joined the ranks of the Congress of Rough Writers at Carrot Ranch Communications, although I don’t believe the newest members’ pages have been added just yet. My work also appears in various print and online publications as guest writer and blogger.
What do you love most about your new career? And what do you miss most about your old career?
I love the freedom. I love being the one to call the shots as far as schedule, workload, etc. I love not having to go out in bad weather or deal with a daily commute. Most of all, I love that I am available for my daughter and can work my schedule around hers. She’s growing up way too fast and I don’t want to miss a thing.
What do I miss? Very little, to be honest. I was ready to move on and I am focused forward. Occasionally I do miss the face-to-face interaction with colleagues – that doesn’t exist here in my private office unless you count conversations with my cats. But I am always finding new ways to interact and collaborate via social media, writers groups, online communities, etc.
Looking back to when you made the career transition, is there anything that you wish you’d done differently or anything that you felt wasn’t working out and you dropped or changed along the way?
No, I can’t say that there is anything I would have done differently. I am a firm believer in living without regret and that every moment of life has purpose, even if we don’t see or understand that purpose immediately. Every choice we make in life leads us to the place and the person we are today. To change anything in the past would likely mean a different present. And I’m pretty happy with the present. So even when life isn’t going as smoothly as I might like, it is all part of the journey.
And to go along with that question, what advice do you have for someone looking to make a career change to a freelance writer?
Be prepared. This is not something I jumped into lightly or without forethought and planning. It is not an easy life. The freelance life is uncertain and unpredictable at best. Where and how will you get what you need to do things like pay bills, buy groceries, and put gas in the car until those paid jobs start to come in at a steady pace? And what’s your backup plan for the days when the steady pace is a slow one and the paid gigs are in short supply? I could probably elaborate for pages here, but it all comes down to having a goal and a plan and making sure you take steps toward achieving that every single day.
I think my best advice is perhaps not so specific to making a change to life as a freelance writer, but to anyone looking to make a major life change. Do what you love; life is too short to spend it miserable. Allow yourself to dream. Pursue your passion. And then take the necessary steps to make those dreams your reality.