Course Correction: I’m a Writer

After making a career for myself in web technology, I have decided to make a change. From now on, I will be identifying as a full-time writer. Yes, I said it.

WTF? Why??

I'm crazy. I know, you don't have to tell me. I've been making good money building websites at One Day Labs. I'm great at it. And I still enjoy it. So why leave it behind?

Well, simply put, I have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. I realized I've been spending years working with clients on building an integral piece of making their dreams come true, and now I finally have an opportunity to do the same for myself. I can't believe I'm finally investing in a domain name of my own, doing something I love.

Why now?

Four months ago I lost my home and almost everything I had to my name in the Sonoma County fires. I'll elaborate another time on how shitty and traumatic that experience was, but for now just trust me that going through something like that makes you think. Between that and giving birth to my son Apollo who is still in the hospital two months later due to complications of a CHD (Congenital Heart Defect), I thought it was probably as good a time as any to reevaluate what the hell I'm doing with my life.

Why writing?

10 years ago on an absolute whim which I like to refer to as a quarter-life crisis, I up and left Sonoma County and moved to San Francisco. I lived in a beautiful old tri-level Victorian built in the late 1800s. I absolutely fell in love with that house.

Western Addition homes in San Francisco

Western Addition homes in San Francisco

When the owners decided to embark on an exterior restoration of the old girl, I set off to document the process with my camera. One thing lead to another and before you knew it I was buried in the musky old stacks of the old records section of the library looking up the history of who built the house and what their lives were like.

I came to find that the house as well as the one next door were built by August Jungblut, a German-born billiards table manufacturer. After his shop was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, he moved it into the ground floor of the house.

In finding out more about the family and the rest of the characters that populated the street, a friend of my landlords who was a writer said, "hey, you could write a book about this!"

Seed...planted. 

The idea evolved over the next several years into pulling from my own family history of living in San Francisco. When I was young, I wrote a story about what it would have been like for my great grandmother to experience the earthquake at a young age (she was 8), and then have to live in the tent cities before being put in the back of a wagon and relocated to San Jose.

Then came the epiphany. The literal moment I woke up from a dream and I KNEW how I wanted to start my novel. I began writing that very day and kept at it. I became completely engrossed by first person accounts of the 1906 earthquake and fires. This novel went from something I wanted to do to something I needed to do. I felt it in my bones.

I hired a writing coach. I joined my local writers group. I participated in writing prompts and exercises. I made friends with other writers. I pitched to a big time agent just for fun, and she loved my work.

Not only was I excited about writing, but I was receiving some validation that I could actually succeed at it if I worked hard enough.

The Decision

Over the weekend I attended the San Francisco Writers Conference. I invested almost $1,000 in finding the answer to this very important question: Can I make a career out of writing?

The answer was yes.

It all came swirling into focus. I could see it. Marrying history and fiction and bringing stories of hardship and survival and strength to life. This is it, this is my calling. And I will do anything it takes to feed it and let it flourish. I can do this.

Coffee shop life

Coffee shop life

The Fallout

But what about the business? What about, you know, making a living and stuff? And the clients?

I more or less saw this coming. Maybe not the whole wanting to become a writer thing, but I knew that one day I would want to step away from building websites full time and have the ability to spend my time doing other things without having to worry about still making enough to put food on the table. That's why I built my business the way I did, where I could build a website in a day and not spend every waking moment making ends meet.

I'm grateful to have amazing clients. Ones who I will continue to support and look after. It pays to have a solid team in place to be able to do that.

I'm thankful I did that, because now I can take care of my little boy, focus on getting my house rebuilt, and spend every day working on my craft.

I'm a writer.

Let's do this.

4 Comments

  1. Heather Mackin on February 21, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    Congrats Melissa! At some point we still need to compare SF earthquake history. Wishing you all the success you can dream up!

  2. Lynn Cominsky on February 21, 2018 at 10:09 pm

    Melissa, you are amazing and I am very proud of you! All the best in your new career, and I can’t wait to read your first book!

  3. Mike Unciano on February 22, 2018 at 10:43 pm

    You go girl!!!

  4. Anet Dunne on February 23, 2018 at 9:14 am

    Welcome. You have always been here. The seed of your grandmother’s life-changing experience is sprouting in yours. When I was a teenager, my cruel father would taunt me with predictions that I would wind up as “a spinster writer with a cat.” Instead, I got an MBA and a lucrative sales job in TV. Soon after he died, when I was in my 40s, I quit my sales job and started writing full-time. It isn’t really a choice, it’s more like an itch that is soothed only when I write. You already know how to use the web as a resource, a tool and a channel. Now, you get to express yourself as who you are and who you are becoming.

    Welcome. You have always been here.

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