Call me Belle.
I’ve always been the girl with her nose pressed into a book. From the “Goosebumps” days of my youth to my obsession with Nicholas Sparks in high school, and my eternal love for “Harry Potter,” I have voraciously consumed words.
Some of the most formative moments of my life have been the few minutes after I finished a book while I held the still open book and let the message waft over me and settle into my skin before I officially closed it.
And it’s not just books. It’s any kind of writing. I love to produce words as much as I love to consume them.
I remember sitting in my mom’s real estate office and writing a song when I was 9 or 10. By that age, I considered myself an old pro at songwriting. I mean, I had written at least 30 songs, and clearly, it was just a matter of time before Leanne Rimes knocked on my door and asked to use my next piece in Coyote Ugly 2. I was living the life. I was going to be a famous songwriter. That was that.
I remember bits and pieces of the song I wrote. There was an excessive use of the words “baby” and “Oh. Oh. Oh.” (My love for Britney will live forever.) I channeled my inner pop star and wrote the song in the back of the office. It was a sort of maze of gray cubicles meant for assistants and new realtors who didn’t have an office yet. But since we often stayed there late into the night as my single mother grew her business, I was all alone and able to create freely.
If only I could have bottled up that little 9-year-old girl and preserved her creativity, inspiration, and faith. But instead, I grew up. I stopped writing songs (and everything else). Or rather, I dabbled here and there, but I never returned to that unrelenting belief that as long as I pushed and created, I would be able to chase down my dreams and catch them in my songbook.
But even though I grew up, I never outgrew my love of language and words.
I memorized every movie I watched. I devoured poems by John Donne and ee cummings. I read blogs like “Young House Love” and “Jennsylvania.” I was happier when I was consumed in a book than when I was doing anything else. I worked in the library in college, and I felt at home among the stacks. I felt like the spines of the books could watch me as I re-shelved them. Like, we had a little secret.
But at the time, my career was not to be in writing. I studied business finance, and I genuinely enjoyed analyzing 10K reports and watching the stock market. I graduated with my BBA in finance and then sat patiently waiting to be hired by a bank or a financial firm. No luck. I got a job working as an Admissions Counselor at an online University. It was terrible. I cried myself to sleep most nights. The truth was, it was a sales job, and sales was not for me. I hated the pressure. I hated thinking of these students as numbers. I hated everything about it.
I quit that job and accepted a job as a receptionist. I took a 33% pay cut to make this move. Lesson one on my road to becoming a writer: money is not as important as happiness and sanity. Then, I decided I wanted to get into marketing. So, I went back to school and pursued my MBA in marketing. I LOVED marketing. I found the whole world of advertising, social media, website design, positioning, etc. to be fascinating! My absolute favorite thing to do was to take a product and do an in-depth target market analysis to learn where the target customer spent their time (both online and offline), what they liked, what they read, who they were, etc. It was like a game: a game that I was great at.
I was promoted to a marketing associate position. I liked it, but it wasn’t what I wanted. Something was missing. I searched for another job (almost unrelentingly) for the duration of my time there. But ultimately, nothing was good enough to walk away from my job. Until one day when I was this close to being offered another job as a marketing manager with a small independent business. I met with the whole team, I had a killer interview, and I clicked with the managers. I knew they were going to offer me the job. I felt it in my skin.
I left the interview and called my husband to tell him how it went. And somewhere in the conversation, I started to cry.
I knew that they would offer me the job. I knew I would accept it. I knew it would be fine, but that I would ultimately still feel empty. I couldn’t identify what was missing, but my husband could.
“Nicole, you want to be a writer, right?”
“So, then be a writer! You’re never going to let it go until you try it. Just, be a writer.”
My mind flashed with images of living the life I had always secretly hoped for- the life I kept folded away in journals and old blog entries. The life I never dared talk about for fear that the words would crumble before they escaped my mouth.
I couldn’t be a writer. Writers are broke. Who quits their high paying job with benefits and a future to write? That’s insane! And yet, I wanted it. I wanted it viscerally. I needed it. But how would we afford to live?
“Can I do that?”
I honestly have no idea what my husband said back, but it must have been reassuring because I said, “Ok! I’m going to do it! I’m going to write! Holy shit……”
I drove home that night in sort of a daze.
I was going to give notice at work. I was going to quit. I was going to lose all semblance of financial security and jump out of the metaphorical plane without a parachute.
Did I have any idea what I would write or how I would make it work? Nope. Did I have a plan to cover our bills? Nope. Did that bother me? Not at all. I was an idiot, but I was so happy.
My writing career has taken a sort of jagged path. If you were to watch my path from a bird’s eye view, you might think I was running from an armed assailant. It’s been pretty serpentine. I tried to just write: children’s books, novels, poems, etc., but I couldn’t quite let go of my love for marketing. And then I discovered copywriting.
The fact that there was a kind of writing that incorporated both business and creativity was such a revelation. I felt like Brendan Frasier exiting the fallout shelter for the first time and learning that the planet hadn’t actually been destroyed (If that was confusing, go watch Blast From the Past IMMEDIATEYL.) I had discovered my own little Eden. But instead of fruit, the trees were filled with words. They were filled with websites and copy, small business owners and authors.
This life isn’t perfect. Working for myself has come with its own set of challenges and obstacles (some of which I am still trying to scale), but it has also brought my truest self to the surface. All the bits and pieces of me that formed my mask have been removed. Now, I can unapologetically write the things I love. I can teach other people how to find their own voice, whether it’s to work on their website or to write to their clients and meet them on common ground.
I know I will keep learning forever. I know I’m not finished with my path. I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but so far, it has been pretty incredible!
I can’t wait for what’s next!
Cheers to the journey, kids! It’s gonna be a wild ride!