Written By Rebecca Savastio

“How I became a professional writer, 31 years after giving up.”

I had long given up on my dream of a becoming a writer. I thought it was impossible. That it was simply not an option.

I was completely wrong.

This is the story of how I succeeded.

Here’s what I’ve learned. Age doesn’t matter. Your past profession doesn’t matter. Criticism doesn’t matter. You can become a writer. Making a living writing is possible no matter how discouraged you may feel or how competitive the market may seem. I never thought it would happen to me, but it did. My journey to writing took over 40 years to come to fruition, but it began when I was just a child.

From the time I could put pen to paper, adults around me told me I would be a writer when I grew up. When I got a bit older, I would dabble in poetry; the kind of emotional, angst-ridden tomes only a pre-adolescent could write, or for that matter, understand. I also tried my hand at short stories and plays, and when I was around 12 or so, my parents encouraged me to send some of my work to a publisher. Back in those days, everything was done through the mail, and there was a long wait from the time I sent my work away to the time the thin envelope arrived.

“Uh-oh” my father said the day it came to the house. “A thin envelope is a bad sign.” We stood and stared at that wispy white conduit to my future until I finally worked up the courage to open it. It was a rejection letter, of course.

The waterworks began immediately, as I dramatically stormed to my room and swore I would never write again. My father appeared at the doorway and told me some story about an author who papered his entire room with rejection letters before he got anything published. I started cheering up a little bit. “Hey!” I said, “I’ll do the same thing!”

That lonely piece of paper was taped to my wall for about ten years with no companions. By the time I got around to removing it, my mother was selling my childhood home and I was 22. I hadn’t written anything except whatever was required for schoolwork.

That rejection letter had gotten into my soul. It had made me feel as though I was a failure; that I was a lousy writer and that I would never succeed. I turned my attention to studying and making my way through college. When I graduated, writing was the furthest thing from my mind. Once in a great while, I would look back and sigh, remembering the time when I used to be creative. Sometimes people would ask me if I ever did any writing anymore, and I would smile feebly and say something like “oh, you know, it’s so competitive and I have to pay the bills, after all.” They would always understand.

For almost twenty years I threw myself into different occupations; first teaching, then fundraising, then sales and marketing. I landed at a great web design company and was able to do some writing in the form of brochures, advertisements and proposals, but my main job was to sell as many websites as possible. After ten years of that, I decided it was time for a change, so I got my real estate license.

I joined a real estate company, but quickly realized I absolutely hated it; the nitpicking, the uber-corporate atmosphere, the deceit of the banks, the buyers who would force me to tromp around in 100 degree heat to no avail, and the shady dealings of other realtors were all too much for me to take.

Around the same time, in fact within weeks of my leaving the web design firm, several friends got wind of the fact that I was no longer working full time, and word must have gotten around that I was unhappy in real estate. The turning point, and the moment that would change my life forever, was when I was out to dinner with my friend and her cousin. The moment her cousin heard I had flexible hours and was semi-available, she said “Oh good, because I really need a writer!”

To this day I have never figured out how she knew I enjoyed writing, but she hired me to write five blog posts a week for her company, a language learning firm. The articles centered on travel, world cuisine and cultural information. I was in heaven. The feeling of actually making money from writing was one I had only ever dreamt about, and that first $125 payment was the most glorious currency I had ever received.

Very shortly after that, I mentioned to my best friend that I was writing for a language learning company, and she said “How much time do you have available? My husband really needs a reporter.” Her husband had just gotten a job at a new online local newspaper, and he was paying $50 for each story. I accepted his offer to write four articles a week, and soon I was so busy with writing jobs, I could barely keep up with the demand.

Once I started building up my portfolio through both of those great opportunities, I was able to apply at many of the wonderful companies I found through the Freedom with Writing newsletter. I have been hired with Writer Access, Textbroker, a several other firms that act as a broker between writers and clients.

The work is abundant; so abundant, in fact, that my time has become quite limited. I generally pick up three to five articles per day, and most recently began writing for a company that pays a percentage of the revenue they make from ads. My very first week there, I wrote an article that has now received nearly a million page views. While the reality that I’m going to make thousands of dollars from that one article feels great, the fact that almost a million people have seen my name makes me feel more wonderful than any amount of money ever could.

That company is also a newspaper, and the owner has taken quite a shine to me. He has made me an editor already, and will give me a team of writers who will work underneath me. In addition to the royalties I make on ads, I get a monthly stipend in exchange for teaching other writers for one hour a week. I will be instructing them on grammar, AP style, and how to write effectively for the search engines. I will also receive a percentage of every story they write.

A normal day for me now consists of picking and choosing what articles I am interested in pursuing. True confessions: I work most of the day in my pajamas, from my sofa, drinking coffee with my cat cuddled against my leg. It’s the job of my dreams. Never in my wildest imagination would I ever think I could make a living as a writer. I must thank Freedom with Writing for introducing me to many of the outstanding companies for which I am now working. I owe much of my success to the newsletter.

I am very keen on helping other writers, and on assisting others in achieving success. My two best pieces of advice to any aspiring writer out there are: build your portfolio as quickly as you can, even if that means publishing for free at first; and never let go of your dreams, because they will find you in the end no matter what.


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