April 24, 2019 § 17 Comments
By Heather O’Shea
When I moved to Florida, one of my goals was to avoid getting a “real” job. I wanted to cobble together a life and an income that moved the act of writing from the fringes of my life to the center. Then I spent about seven months with more than enough time. So much time, in fact, that I had plenty left over to worry about money. Instead of writing essays, I’d develop elaborate business plans, trying to figure out how to support myself in the manner to which I’d become accustomed.
During that time, I thought a lot about my novel. I sent a few things out. I read and re-read Jane Friedman’s The Business of Being a Writer and Ellen Karsh’s The Only Grant Writing Book You’ll Ever Need. Notice the verb that’s missing from those sentences. Then one day I picked up a copy of a local magazine. I was at a swanky Fidelity office in one of the swankier parts of my swanky new town, trying to open an account to house my 401k from my old teaching job. I flipped through beautiful pages, found myself interested in the stories, seriously considered “accidentally” taking the magazine with me when we left. And then I saw the sidebar that said they were looking for writers and creative people. “This,” I said to my husband. “This.”
We started hunting for a store where we could buy the magazine but kept striking out. Then one day as we drove down the main drag, I saw the sign on the building. “Stop,” I told Fred. “They’re open.” I rang the bell. A friendly woman gave me an armful of back issues and the email address of the owner. In my third interview, we debated the use of the Oxford comma. I knew it was a good sign.
And that’s how I surprised myself by becoming the managing editor of a magazine. Now I spend my days reading, writing copy, editing copy, hunting for story ideas, interacting with writers, and working with delightful colleagues who share my love for all things made of the alphabet.
It’s making me a better writer. It’s making me understand what I missed during all those years when I eschewed journalism in favor of creative writing. It’s making me wonder why that dichotomy even exists, or why it existed so clearly for me as a teenager and young woman.
During the week, I’m back to my old work-day habit of shaking myself out of bed at five a.m., a discipline I couldn’t maintain when I had all the time in the world. I’m remembering how much I love writing in a dark house and being awake for that moment when the emptiness outside the window begins to fill with the first outlines of things.
On the weekends, you just might find me writing outside on the lanai. That’s where I was last Saturday when the wood storks came. The flash of a black-tipped wing made me look up, and I watched as the pair of them bounced across my back yard, gaining a little height and momentum with each hop, until the air finally caught them, and they flew.
Heather O’Shea is the managing editor of Vero Beach Magazine. Her work has appeared in The Sun, the Daily Good, the Notre Dame Review, Blue Mesa Review, and Cold Mountain Review. She believes that if your goals concerning your writing life are sufficiently flexible, you just might surprise yourself by achieving them.