You Gotta Start Somewhere

Where to start?

I always wanted to be a writer, which is why I spent 25 years in accounting. Does that make sense? No, it doesn’t. But That’s what happens sometimes when life happens and what we want to do gets pushed aside?again and again?in favour of what we think we need to do.

When I finally gave up my career of juggling numbers a few years ago, I decided to give juggling words a try. It’s wasn’t easy picking up the pen when all I’d written for decades were reports, manuals, and inter-office e-mails.

First I started at AU. One of my first courses was ENGL 255 Introductory Composition. That course put me on the write track (forgive the writerly pun) to pursue the written word. Most of my AU courses require essays, and I put ENGL 255 to good use right away.

The next step was small markets. I belong to a few organizations and most of them publish newsletters for their members. Soon I had book reviews, articles, and photographs in several newsletters. This was great practice and it was gratifying to get feedback from readers. The only downside was these organizations don’t pay their writers. Time to explore other markets.

The Voice Magazine became the next step?my first foray into paid writing. Timing was on my side here: I was just about to inquire about submitting articles to The Voice, when then-new editor Karl Low advertised for new writers. When my first article, Essay Avoidance?The Fine Art of Procrastination, was published in November 2013, I was elated. Not only was my writing reaching a larger audience, but I was?at last?getting paid.

Wanting the practice and the discipline (oh, also the money,) I decided to submit an article to The Voice every week. And for three years, I have not missed one issue. With weekly practice, my writing has improved. And that includes the writing I do elsewhere, especially essays. The more I write, the easier it flows.

With little effort on my part, writing for The Voice brought me to another market: Maclean’s. Maclean’s was seeking an AU student to write about AU campus life; they contacted the editor of The Voice, who referred them to one of his writers?me. That article was published in March in Maclean’s 2016 University Guidebook; it later appeared online.

The steady weekly writing practice at The Voice gave me the confidence to tackle a bigger market. And the confidence to say “yes” when another writing assignment was offered to me. This article, not yet published, was on an unfamiliar topic and had a short deadline. Could I do it? Absolutely. Another writing credit and a bit more money in the bank.

Although It’s enchanting to think that a writer’s first project will turn out to be a best-seller worth millions, most writers don’t begin that way. Most writers start small and close to home. I’m still growing as a writer. I have more projects to tackle and more markets to explore. But I would have been nowhere with my writing without that first step. You gotta start somewhere.

Ready to make the step into paid writing? The Voice Magazine is ready for you! Contact the editor at voice@voicemagazine.org.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario. Follow Barbara on twitter @ThereGoesBarb.

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