“Ancara Imparo” (Still I am learning)
— Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni
When I was six, I plagiarized Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, wrapping my finished product in a DIY hardcover made of cardboard and candy-colored striped wall paper samples. (I still have it today.)
Why is this significant? Because that was the day I decided I was a writer.
From that moment on, I was obsessed. I cut stories from newspapers and magazines and hung them on my wall. I read the encyclopedia (especially J for journalism) to get a jump-start on the other kids in junior high and I kept my eye on dreamy Canuck and James Bond lookalike, Peter Jennings.
Books were my best friends. Words saved my life.
On the school paper and yearbook, I was an editor since my sophomore year. I had an essay published in Time Magazine at the age of 15 and received my first check(s) from the writing of that essay.
Senior year, we had a drug bust at my high school — there I was, camera in hand, hiding behind bushes, snapping pics and interviewing idle teens in the hall to get the scoop. We worked until late that night to put out a special “Drug Bust” edition. We sold our photos to the local paper. We got called into the principal’s office the next day. I felt like the real deal — a journalist.
Got my first job, as a stringer for a local paper, the summer after high school and started college that fall — taking newspaper and radio and television classes. Over the years, life threw me some curveballs, my journalism track got sidelined — but my love for reading and writing never diminished.
Joe Jobs and European Travels
I spent years working my share of average Joe jobs in a variety of industries, somehow, always finding a way to fit writing into whatever the job entailed. I even became a certified optician, before saving up some dough, stuffing some things in storage and bidding the eyeglass world a final sayonara before heading off to Europe for the backpacking trip of a lifetime.
I ran for trains, consulted guidebooks, got lost in translation, tried to remember what country I was in, ate great food, met awesome people, washed my clothes in the sink of a pensione each night, and read and wrote every day.
I decided when I got back to the U.S. I had to return to my first love — writing.
How to Be a Writer
I got a part-time job at Powells Books, started work on a novel and a children’s book, volunteered at the library, joined a writer’s group and offered my services to a small local paper. I parlayed that into an ongoing gig with a local zine, became the Arts and Events Editor and food reviewer for that paper and landed work as a freelancer with The Oregonian. I began to write nationally for magazines and websites. Life was so good, I bagged that part-time Joe job (Exec. Admin. Asst.) and dove headlong, full-time into freelancing.
Panic City, USA — Population 1
When the bottom fell out of the print market, (Dun dun dun!!) I was newly engaged, freshly preggers and had just lost outlets that I’d worked with for over four years. Panic city.
Up to that moment, the industry had been pretty much been the same for decades. Suddenly, with the popularity of the internet and the advent of social media, the print industry was shrinking. Employed writers were being laid off, flooding the freelance market and changing the landscape for writers drastically. Bum-mer.
In order to survive (and to skip going back to a life of schlepping for “the man”) I had to find a way to make writing viable again. I had to diversify, seek-out new skills while keeping an eye on the trends and changes in the newly evolving writing markets.
I branched out from traditional media, like articles for newspapers and print magazines to blogging, e-Books, white papers, commercial scripts and online zines. I developed new skill sets (like SEM certification, WordPress website development, branding and social media expertise) and married them to tools from my past (journalism, marketing, niche arenas in cooking and health).
I now write, edit and proof just about everything under the sun.
Turns out, it doesn’t matter what kind of writing it is — I love it. Being open and flexible, has helped me grow, not only my business, but as a person and as an artist and freelancer.
Fuel, Passion and Ninjas = Combustible
Each day, I find new ways to put my talents to good use — many times to help someone else’s business grow or get attention. The work I do in the corporate and small business sectors, feeds the work I do in journalism (and in my more artistic ventures into poetry, children’s books, short stories and novels) and vice-versa.
The most interesting thing about being a writer is the constant drive to learn. Which is why curiosity is my fuel. Writing, in any form, to me, is one of the most exciting things you can do on the planet.
I’ve always believed that if you can read, nothing can stop you and if you can write, you can reach back to help someone else up. Each gig as a freelancer is an opportunity to learn, grow, inform or assist another human being in their journey.
This is what makes me so passionate about what I do and what keeps me eager and engaged. When it comes to writing, I’m a ninja — deadly mad skills that sneak right up on ya.
Take a look around. Read a few posts or clips. Get a feel for who I am and what I can do. If you like what you see, shoot me an email.
— Vanessa Nix Anthony
Founder, The Portland Writer