I always wanted to be a writer. To me, people who wrote books had the only power that mattered: They could change your heart with a story. After college I took a job as a copywriter in advertising agencies and started telling a lot of advertising stories—attempting to sway people to buy cars, or yet another morning Starbucks, or one dog food over another. Because I was making a living with my words I told myself that was enough.

Towards the end of my 20’s I hit a rough patch, one of those seasons when life throws you sideways. And one day I was walking home from work in New York City when I realized a sad truth: I called myself a writer, yet I hadn’t tried to write my way through what was going on in my head. I’d tried working too much and drinking too much. But I hadn’t tried writing. I could build multi-million dollar brands but I couldn’t build myself up. Somewhere along the way I had forgotten that writing was a way to change your heart.

That night, on the green couch that took up the entire living room of my fifth-floor walkup apartment, I started a blog that changed my writing life. I shut down my advertising brain that told me what sounded good and dug deeper for what was true. And the more I wrote, the more people showed up to read.

The experience taught me something I could never have learned from an ad agency: When we get real, we get better.

Since then I have published two novels, Copygirl and Just Don’t Call Me Ma’am. I also relocated my life (in a twist I wouldn’t even have dreamed up for fiction) to a ranch in the middle of Texas. 

At first I thought I was moving to the middle of nowhere to have more time to write, and to be with the man I would ultimately marry. But I made an interesting discovery out there in the land of wheat and cattle—I loved that pace of life. As a side benefit, lots of clients loved the idea of a copywriter who is real. And so it was the beginning of a new freelance advertising business that gave me reason to travel to cities all over America, the perfect balance for life in the country.

Today we live in the small (but growing fast) city of Waco, Texas with our three children, but we still spend as much time in the country as we can. During the days I work on the editorial team for Magnolia Journal. And at night I spend every hour I can find on my own writing, either the monthly magazine column I write, or a new book project.

Someone asked me the other day if I miss working in advertising now that I am mostly focused on magazines. I will always freelance for a few clients, so I’ll never totally leave copywriting behind. But I’ve also realized I don’t separate being a copywriter from being a writer anymore. Just like you can’t split one side of yourself from the other, I no longer think you can divide your writing self into sections. One part informs the other; one part teaches the other. Without one part, we wouldn’t have the other.

All of it works toward the same goal—to touch people’s hearts. And if you dig deep enough and stay real, to change them.