Freelance journalism and creative non-fiction
I worked in the corporate world for over 20 years but never felt I was in the right field. It didn’t help that Oprah and her ilk were always saying things such as, “Live your best life now.” But there I was, stuck in a job that felt MEH…though in hindsight I developed many great work skills, said Pam, from the sunnier side of the street.
While working, I started writing as an outlet for my frustrations. Folks in writing groups categorized my work as either “humorous essay” or “creative non-fiction.” I even got a handful of those essays published in our local parenting magazine, MetroParent; another local publication, Strut; and lo and behold, the Christian Science Monitor’s Home Forum section, thanks to an assist from Norm Prady, whose writing group I’ve belonged to for over ten years, and whose son, Bill, created The Big Bang Theory on CBS. Plug, plug, name drop.
In 2008, as the recipient of a severance package after a corporate downsizing, I promised myself I would never work in that same, bad-fit capacity ever again. Instead, I would find a way to make money through my writing. Only problem: how would I transition from spreadsheets and Power Point presentations to a more creative endeavor?
When you’re young, you go outside and play without any plans or forethought; games with neighborhood kids more or less form on the spot. So that’s how I approached this career change. Kept trying different things until they worked or didn’t. It was like crawling up a mountain, then sliding down a few feet before climbing up a bit further. Still, I made progress. (And by the way, a teeny bit of progress is still progress.)
The essays I published while working (and after I was let go) led to a bi-weekly column in the Birmingham Patch. In 2012, I wrote my first feature story for MetroParent. I discovered I liked writing about other people more than I liked writing about myself. That led to feature assignments in Michigan Prime, Crain’s Detroit Business, Detroit Jewish News, Michigan College Guide, Neighborhood SEEN and others.
Connecting with other writers – particularly those who put in a good word for me – helped.
So did two other things. (Three, if you include my husband’s income.) A part-time job managing the print and digital advertising for Lawrence Technological University and another part-time gig as the associate editor for a local magazine. Both made me feel productive, which helped me withstand the ups and downs of freelance work.
I like to think there’s a lesson in here. You can accomplish quite a lot when you sort of know what you want even if you have no idea how to get there. You just need to start.
Pam Houghton transitioned to freelance writing from the IT industry in 2008. Her work has been featured in Michigan Prime, MetroParent, Crain’s Detroit Business, Detroit Jewish News, Christian Science Monitor and numerous other publications. She also works in Marketing and Public Affairs for Lawrence Technological University.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of In the Context of Love, adult contemporary fiction, a 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist, 2016 Readers’ Favorite Finalist, 2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist, and Great Midwest Book Fest Honorable Mention.
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