Friday, January 18, 2008

Moving On, Moving Forward

So my family and I are in the middle of a move. By that, I mean that I'm the only one dealing with anything remotely related to moving next week while the rest of them continue on business as usual. (Not that I have any expectation of my 1 year-old packing, but my husband? Er, maybe.) Anyhoo...

I've been cleaning out closets and filing cabinets and drawers and every other nook in which I've stuffed stuff over the past few years and have uncovered loads and loads of papers and articles that I've written since the inception of my career. And it's been such an interesting thing, to look back at this stuff. When I was 22 and a new college graduate, I never imagined that I'd forge a career as a writer. I would have loved to, of course, but it just seemed unattainable, ridiculous, almost.

So I got a job in PR. When I realized that PR wasn't for me, I pursued my original passion: acting. I did some off-broadway gigs, got my SAG card via several commercials, moved to LA (via a brief stop in Dallas for a doomed romance), and after a while, realized that, guess what? I wanted to try something else. So I moved back to NYC to co-found an internet company, and that's when my writing career started to come into focus. But not even intentionally so. I wrote a slew of web copy and articles for the site (many of which I found this week in a folder in the back of a closet), and eventually, when the internet bubble burst, I emerged with some semblance of a writing career.

The point of all of this is to say that life is long and winding, and whether or not you achieve immediate success as a writer, that holds no bearing on whether or not you'll achieve success in the future. Or even if you'll still aspire for the same things in the future. If you told my 22-year old self that I'd be making a living as a novelist, she'd be elated but shocked - at 22, it just seemed seemed so far outside the bounds of what I could achieve.

Life as a writer means being the tortoise; it means understanding that small steps are still steps toward the finish line; it means accepting the fact that instant gratification is just a pipe dream. But if you allow things to snowball and roll down the path toward where they're meant to go, sometimes, if you're lucky like me, you might find that you end up in the just the right place.

So tell me, what was your first job? Was it wildly divergent from where you are now?

11 comments:

Larramie said...

I :) at how much you think you've already accomplished, Allison. Indeed you have but this is just the beginning with a future filled with a career and growing children. May the next 13+ years be as exciting, amazing and fulfilling as those just past. And, for the present, may you even enjoy THE move!

kyra said...

thanks for reminding me of the tortoise!

my very first job was as a babysitter. considering i spend most of my waking hours parenting and homeschooling my son, i'd say my first and current jobs are fairly close but that's only the surface answer. they are, in fact, WILDLY divergent!

Trish Ryan said...

What a great post. It's funny how moving helps us see how far we've come. And what an amazing feeling to see that life has turned out better than what you thought possible at 22, even though not every path you took ended up being your "destination." (Okay, that sounded way more philosophical than I planned...what I really meant to say was, "It's cool to know that if Dallas and LA aren't all you hoped for, NYC awaits" :) )

booklady said...

It seems like so many writers had a variety of jobs before they became published authors. I think it's a mixture of natural curiosity for what other jobs might entail (and a restlessness with what we already know) and our inner selves telling us that we simply won't be happy until and unless we're writing.

Kara said...

My *very* first official paycheck job was as a grocery store checker.

My first job out of college was as an editorial assistant for an NYC mag. I have not looked back since! Seventeen years in the editorial industry.

Jen A. Miller said...

My first job was working as a fill in at the company where my dad works. I did everything from file accounting paperwork to answering phones (which gave me a GREAT receptionist voice that I use when trying to get someone to do an interview).

I also worked as a bookstore cashier, in marketing, in PR and then as editor of a regional magazine. I was only 23 when I edited that magazine, and, boy, I didn't think I'd end up where I am now. Even though 'freelance writer' is sort of in the same field, I couldn't have imagined the clips I've gotten and that I'd end up writing a book about the Jersey shore.

I think the key with finding whatever that right career is for you is being flexible and trying something even if you're not sure it'll work out. If I didn't consider other options, I'd be a college professor right now. Or a perpetual adjunct still looking for tenure. And that just doesn't sound as fun to me :-)

Jen

Carleen Brice said...

My first "real" job was at a small pr firm. So small that I still can't tell you what my offical title was. What I did was everything from typing, filing and making coffee to going to client meetings and making press calls (at which I sucked). I was 22 as well and I think my 22-year-old self be really happy with where/who I am now.

CelticBuffy said...

Fast food anyone? That was my first "paycheck" employment. The first job out of college was a speech therapist. In between has been employment as a waitress, clothing store manager, waitress, CNA, temp worker, waitress....oh wait! Did I forget to mention waitress? It seems that I keep falling back on that particular set of skills. I'm now in the process of re-inventing myself career-wise, having quit the educational system. Any suggestions anyone?

Alison Ashley Formento said...

"Life as a writer means being the tortoise....toward the finish line." Great line and one I'm going to print out and place on my bulletin board next to my other quotables.

First job besides babysitting? Booking photo sessions for Olan Mills studios. Pay was lousy, but I got free "glamour shots" which is probably why I took the job. I really worked that big hair, blue eye shadow look.

~K~ said...

My first job was working in the children's section of our public libray. My current job is in information technology, but I am an aspiring freelance writer. I think all have similarities in that we help others get the answers they need: "...a book on dinosaurs?" "...a report on our daily sales invoices." "...new and better ways to lose weight/save money/be happy/etc."

I agree with BookLady...I think there is a natural curiosity about things and a restlessness to know the answer.

Lisa R. said...

It's kind of interesting to see how many of us started out in public relations. Sure we were writing, but hasn't it been a big leap from there to here; if for you "here" means full time writing?

I can't say that I don't still get that occassional nudge in the back of my mind (and the front of my checkbook!) that says -- and some days shouts, "Think how much more money you could be making in P.R. today..." but I don't see myself heading back there.