Tag Archives: writing

Sometimes it’s the little things

The following is a revised version of an original story written by me in January 2008. It’s well worth retelling.

I had none...until...

You never know where you’ll get your inspiration, your motivation, your drive to move forward in this world.

To illustrate, I have a twin sister named June. She’s actually the better of me. I often think of us as Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzeneggar in Twins. Like the part in the movie where the evil scientist is explaining how this fascinating plan went awry. He says they took all the best components and mixed them up in some sort of test tube.

As he looks at Schwarzeneggar, he says (I’m paraphrasing here): ‘All the good stuff went into what stands before you.’ Then he turns to DeVito and says, ‘All the crap left over is what you see in the mirror every day.’

i'm the short one

Between June and me, I’m the crap. But don’t feel sorry for me. Quite frankly, I’m okay with it. I’ve made peace with crap, and crap and I get along just swell.

My twin sister’s beautiful, highly intelligent—just like Arnold, she has all the good qualities of the ‘stuff’ that made us. So her response to one of my stories was met with great delight. It was truly what I needed to move forward in my writing career.

To set the stage, I was sitting at my desk at the ad agency NOT writing, but rather, answering phones and setting meeting schedules—my usual routine even after five years. How did it come to this? I’d even taken two copywriting courses to prove to myself and anyone else who cared that I had a real passion and devotion to the art of writing.

I’d get frustrated in my endless pursuit to do more, be more, and then vent to June. She always responded in kind. “You should really start writing seriously. You’re good at it.” Or, “Juice (her nickname for me), your writing’s da’ bomb. You need to do more.”

That’s just June. Always kind and encouraging. Always the rock. I’d listen to her suggestion…and then go back to work and answer calls.

Of course, all the self-improving techniques, all the writing courses I’d taken made no difference whatsoever to my very intelligent but equally stubborn boss, who believed my only purpose in this world was to answer phones and to care for his schedule. (But we’ll save that for a future, Can You Believe My Life? article.)

Anyway, I’d been struggling with how to make a smooth transition from working full-time at the agency to writing from home full-time. This particular morning was no different.

I just had my article, Outside My Window, published on another Web site. I sent it out to several friends and family members to view, but hadn’t really expected to hear from anyone. Several hours later my phone rings at the front desk. I answer it and hear a stern and familiar voice:

“Get up right now! Get up, get your things and walk out that door and never look back! He [my boss] does NOT appreciate your talent! You are wasting your time at that place! You should NOT be sitting at that front desk …”

I was taken aback. In fact, it took me quite some time to recognize the caller and what she was referring to. I knew that voice, but the ranting and raving was unfamiliar territory.

It was June.

She’d just finished reading my article and felt the need to call me with a “Come to Reality” good talking-to! It worked. After remarkably putting things into perspective for me, on that day and in that very hour I knew it was time for me to take my writing much more seriously, because when June—one of the most intelligent, analytical and reasonable persons I’d ever known—tells you to jump ship, your only response should be, “On which side of the boat?”

I worked vigorously for months to get something suitable to, at least, keep me in the lap of luxury in my extremely small efficiency apartment where I reside (heat included). As it turns out, I now have a national client in the health care industry who actually matched my salary from the agency. On the 28th of December, 2007, I resigned from my full-time position and am now writing full-time from my home office. At the time my “home office” was a four by five extension of the bedroom/kitchen area. Small steps indeed.

Point is, today I have a hopeful outlook for my professional career, and I have June. That’s my girl. She doesn’t say much, but when she does she packs a wallop.

If not for June, I’d likely still be sitting at that same desk, answering that same phone, making those same reservations for that same man. No doubt I’d still be depressed and wondering ‘How my life came to this.’

don't remind me...

It wasn’t some grandiose speech from a soapbox, just a simple, “if-you-don’t-get-off-your-butt-and-do-something-with-your-talent” call that pointed me in the right direction. A simple phone call made all the difference.

Indeed, sometimes it’s the little things.


Thank You, Mrs. Pigeon

She always wore a smile. A big one. She was a delightful, late twenty-something bubbly spirit, and she was my fourth grade teacher.

Mrs. Pigeon was an average-looking, White woman who always had something funny to say … that is, something funny to a ten-year old. And she made us feel like we mattered. In fact, she’s one of the reasons I’m earning a living as a writer today.

Let me set the stage …

I didn’t really know anything about “being” a writer. I knew I enjoyed writing, but in my urban jungle there were government workers and housekeepers and bartenders and school crossing guards. You know, “normal” working people. (I don’t mean to slight anyone, but if you’re a writer, you understand the “normal” comment … Remember the responses you got from family and friends when you told them you wanted to become a writer? “Well, THAT’S different.” “When are you going to get a real job?” But that’s a whole ‘nother article.)

Anyway, I wrote my very first poem in Mrs. Pigeon’s fourth grade class. We were learning how to write poetry and our assignment was to complete the first two lines from the textbook. It read:

“Woodpecker sent a telegram.
I heard that tapping sound.”


I thought real hard about my response. (I was so serious!) I wanted the poem to be both informative and amusing. Naturally, it had to rhyme, because in fourth grade the concept of a poem that doesn’t rhyme is just plain dumb. (I’d like to think I’ve grown since then.)

The poem also had to make sense. It had to rise above the everyday ten-year-old jargon and strike a chord with its reader. (Yeah, I was that deep.) After pondering for the longest time (up to, like, fifteen minutes), EUREKA! I struck gold!

…I remember approaching my teacher’s desk.

“What if she thinks it’s stupid?” I asked myself. “No, she wouldn’t think that. She’s Mrs. Pigeon!

Yet with a bit of trepidation, I held my head up and continued the long, methodical walk to what was bound to be my new life. With ever step I grew more and more confident! I’d found my calling. After so many struggles: the knee scrapes from hitting the concrete in all those double-dutch jump rope attempts, the repeated paddle ball start-ups…

NOT good for my self-esteem!

NOT good for my self-esteem!

…losing (again!) at that stupid game of jacks—all these were things at which I absolutely sucked! But this … ahhh, this one moment unleashed my true passion, the person I was destined to become.

I stood alongside Mrs. Pigeon as she read the poem to herself. I could see her lips moving.

“Come on, get to it, woman! You’re gonna love it!” I remember thinking to myself.

“…I heard that tapping sound.”

At long last. “Here it comes,” I thought. Surely SHE’S going to get it!

“When he stopped, he slipped,
And fell upon the ground.”

(Okay, so it wasn’t Nikki Giovanni, but keep in mind I was only ten.)

Mrs. Pigeon’s response was classic! I still remember her tossing her head back, giving a very audible, enthusiastic wail of a laugh—and I believe there was an angelic chorus in the background.

“I love it, Judith! I love it!” she exclaimed, her hearty laughter causing strife and envy throughout the sea of ten-year-olds.

Yes, finally, I did it! I found my calling! A star was born…and…it…was… ME!

This might sound a bit over the top, but that very brief moment remains with me even today, nearly 40 years later. Mrs. Pigeon has no idea how her response completely changed my introverted world into one of endless possibilities.

She doesn’t know how I often think of her when I’ve reached a professional milestone in my writing career, how she set the tone for my future. She doesn’t know that I’m working from home as a full-time writer, and that I credit her and that one moment in time—however fleeting—with laying a blueprint for who I was to become.

I’ve held all types of jobs: actor, singer, construction worker, corrections officer, executive assistant, etc. But the point I have to make is that I’ve come back home to my roots. To the place I found at ten years old in an unassuming elementary classroom with a teacher named Mrs. Pigeon.

So, Mrs. Pigeon, thank you.

Judith Brown is a nationally-published freelance writer out of Harrisburg, PA. With nearly 30 years in the work force, her varied background represents county and state governments, non-profit organizations and the advertising industry, among others. A writer and editor for a health care publisher, Ms. Brown also conducts writing workshops, provides on-site staff training in matters pertaining to workplace culture, and serves as a PR/marketing consultant for small business industries. She can be reached via email at jbfreelancewriter@yahoo.com.

Writing is Cool, Therapeutic…and most of all Profitable

I try to encourage all my friends, peers, colleagues – what have you – to write. Not simply because it’s a cool thing to do, but because everyone’s struggling in today’s economy. Everyone. And while everyone’s looking under the mattress for folded bills and tossing the sofa cushions aside while scrounging for loose change, money is just WAITING to be made – through writing.

Now right about now you’re thinking, “I’m not a good writer,” or “I don’t have anything to write about,” which is the usual response. It’s the WRONG response, but nonetheless the usual one. I can make this claim because I’m living proof that writing for profit is absolutely possible. Thanks, in large part, to the Internet.

Yes, the Internet has opened all kinds of doors for writers, psuedo-writers, wannabe-writers and all those in-between. And while a college education can certainly help you get your foot in the door, the Internet has allowed lots of closet-writers to break free of the “degree” discrimination. You know what I’m talking about: “I’m sorry, but you don’t have a college degree.” Yes, THAT degree discrimination.

The various sites open to hiring freelance writers in diverse fields (including copywriting, article writing, creative writing, blogging, and much more) are just itching to find a fresh voice, that new pitch. Editors from all countries, representing various niches are in desperate search of … well, YOU! And the beauty of the program is this: it doesn’t cost you a dime to simply try it. Imagine that! A new outlook on life, a new approach to a whole new exciting field, new possibilities can be on the horizon for you – and for free.

I’ve been treading out here in the freelance pool since January 2008, and I gotta tell ya’: I’m not going back. The view is awesome and the water is just fine. What’s more…I can actually LIVE on a day-to-day basis, not merely three or four hours after a hard day’s work, before my head crashes onto my pillow.

Admittedly, the writer’s life isn’t for everyone, but IF you’re tired of the day-to-day struggle, IF you’re looking for something a little different, IF you’re open to learning a new way of living, IF you’re wondering how to pay those bills, and IF you can’t quite see yourself asking, “Would you like fries with that?” watch for my followup blog, Becoming a Writer: How to Get Started, within the next few days.

It just might be what you’ve been searching for.

Judith Brown is a freelance writer from Harrisburg, PA, where she writes for the health care, travel and entertainment industries. With more than six years in advertising, Ms. Brown also serves as a marketing and training consultant to small business industries.

I’m Back – And I’m Bad (I mean that in a good way)

Yes, it’s been awhile.

But that’s a good thing. While it took me nearly two years to get back to this post, don’t think for one moment I’ve been resting on my laurels. Oh, I’ve been working – and how!

The last time I posted, I was merely contemplating going into “the business.” Today I’m proud to say I’m a nationally published (as in a real, tangible magazine “published”) full-time freelance writer.

I have 3.5 consistent clients, which might not sound great from where you sit, but I gotta tell ya’ – I’m not doing too bad on this end. My bills are paid, I love what I do, and I’m not overbooked to the point I can’t give my best to each of my clients. Having said that, I do enjoy taking on one-time projects every so often – just for additional cash flow, and as a means of getting my name out to a broader audience. It’s working out.

So life is good today.

I say “today” because we really don’t know what tomorrow will bring. With the economy in the state it’s in, it’s always best to have Plan B firmly intact. But why am I writing this ominous post? As writers, we have to think in reality. But that’s not always easy because there are two types of writers: those who view writing as some type of romantic experience (which it often isn’t); and those who buy into the notion that a good writer must first “pay his dues.”

Let’s take that first group: the romanticist. I got six words for you: The Down Side to Freelance Writing (http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Down-Side-to-Freelance-Writing&id=1378537). Read that and you’ll have a better understanding of what’s really involved.

To that second group: the “pay your dues” club. To you I say, “Get over it already!” This is a new time and a new age. While paying your dues might not have been optional “back in the day,” that’s certainly not the case today. I’m living proof of that. I’m a health care editor with a national health care publisher – yet I never attended college and wouldn’t even know what an SAT test looked like.

But slow your roll. I’m not trying to tell anyone NOT to go to college. In fact, had I gone to college I’m sure the road to where I am today would have been paved much sooner. What I am telling you is that modern technology has made it absolutely possible for someone like me to eke out a living in the writing field.

The Internet offers a whole world out there for people like me: ones who thought they were destined to certain misfortunes in life because of the lack of higher education. That’s no longer the case.

Today, editors and publishers, agents and scouts, corporations and small businesses are all looking for writers – like me: real people who come from the real world – who can put two sentences together.

Magazines targeting parents finally got the message that parents listen to other parents who’ve faced similar challenges. They need those parents’ stories, in their own words.

Auto magazines are now looking for mechanics who share a knack for writing; just as writing magazines now accept articles written by people who enjoy reading and have a natural ability to write. And the beauty of it is that MOST DON’T ASK WHICH COLLEGE YOU’VE ATTENDED, SO MUCH AS TO VIEW OF SAMPLE OF YOUR WORK. Show a few good samples and you just got yourself a nice side gig—working from home no less.

So if you’re thinking of writing as a part-time gig, think faster. In the time it took you to read this post, thousands of writers have been hired to write an article, a book, or even a screenplay. Thousands of writers like you and me.

And that’s my cue, because in the time it took me to post this, I possibly lost out on a few nice writing assignments.

Darn it.