AUTHORS HAVE ALWAYS HAD THE ONLY POWER that interests me: They could tell stories that make people feel alive. After college I took a job as a copywriter in an ad agency and started telling a lot of advertising stories—attempting to sway people to buy cars, or yet another morning Starbucks, or one detergent over another. I knew those weren’t the kind of stories that shook people out of their routines or made them want to clear cobwebs out of their souls. But writing them kept the electricity on in my apartment, and 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. I was living in New York City at the time and I was walking home from work one day when I realized that I called myself a writer, yet I hadn’t tried to write my way through what was happening in my head and heart. Every day I used words to build multi-million dollar brands. But I had forgotten words could lift people up, too.
That night, sitting on the green couch that took up the entire living room of my fifth-floor walkup shoebox, I started a blog that changed my writing life. I wrote with no worries of what might sound good, what a client might say, or what would sell. Night after night, month after month, I dug for my own truths and then offered them to whomever might be out there. And what I got back will probably keep me writing for the rest of my life. Email after email along the lines of, “All this time, I thought I was the only one who felt that way.”
Since then I have published two novels that are deeply rooted in truths that matter to me, Just Don’t Call Me Ma’am and Copygirl. And in a twist I probably wouldn’t even have dreamed up for fiction, I also relocated my life from the city to a ranch in the middle of Texas.
At first, I thought I was moving to the country to be with the man I love and to have more time to write books. But I made an interesting discovery in the land of wheat and cattle—I also have a thing for a slower pace of life. And as it ended up, companies in need of a copywriter didn’t care if I lived in Manhattan or the middle of nowhere, so it was the start of a freelance advertising business as well.
We stayed off grid for as long as we could—right until our kids wanted to know what it was like to live around people instead of cattle. Today we call Waco, Texas home, though it always feels like a bit of a lie when I say it. I don’t actually feel at home until we are driving back out to the country—in that moment when the road finally opens wide. Then you look up and realize the sky has too.
When we moved to town I had more than a shift in location. I also made a career shift and joined the editorial team of Magnolia Journal. It’s almost been two years since the change and recently someone asked me if I missed copywriting now that I work in the magazine world. I don’t think I’ll ever completely leave advertising behind—I still freelance for a small group of clients, and friends, and clients who have become friends. But I’ve also come to see that I don’t have to divide writing up so that my advertising writing is separate from my magazine writing and all that is different from book writing. That’s like trying to keep the part of me that loves the country life separate from the woman who gets giddy when the pilot says we are starting our descent into New York City.
The parts build on top of each other. They inform each other. What might appear to be messy contradictions, could actually be what’s necessary to make a whole. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which kind of story reaches inside and shakes a person, or makes them feel the rush of being alive. All that matters is that it happens.