When people ask me when I became a writer, I always hesitate. Not because I don’t want to answer their question, but because I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t a writer.
Writing has always been my one true passion in life.
So instead of explaining how I became a writer, I insist on telling the story of how I managed to remain a writer, despite the twists and turns and bumps in the road of life.
The summer before 6th grade, I had the humbling opportunity of attending the University of Pittsburgh’s Young Writer’s Institute. It was an intensive writing workshop located at the Oakland campus of the University of Pittsburgh, and I managed, after much assistance and encouragement from my 5th grade teacher, to receive a full scholarship.
Everyday for 2 weeks during that summer I roamed the streets of Oakland, climbed the stairs in the Cathedral of Learning, and sought inspiration in Schenley Park. The culmination of the experience was a couple of published poems in the Young Writer’s Anthology and the honor of having my work read during the closing reception among everyones’ family and friends.
From that time in my life on I learned that I not only loved the written word, but I was able to cultivate my love for writing into beautiful poems and intriguing short stories.
So it was inevitable when I was accepted into Washington & Jefferson College that I would major in English. I graduated with a BA and double major in English and Psychology in 2004.
Sure that I would finally be able to earn a living off of my love for writing, I embarked, like many college grads, on a journey of some serious resume and cover letter campaigns to every PR firm, newspaper, and magazine I could think of — but it was to no avail.
Bills adding up, and the words of my college mentor ringing in my ears (“Sometimes you have to roll your sleeves up and start from the bottom and work your way up”), I accepted a position with a disability management consulting firm. The medical field was the LAST place I thought I’d end up….
I had the not-so-friendly experience of working for pretentious, underpaid physicians who took every chance they got to bark condescending orders or literally throw files at me. Is THIS what the medical field was like?
I knew this wasn’t where I wanted to be in my life, but the experience made me stronger and taught me a lot of things: mainly how to be professional in the face of adversity, but I also learned medical terminology, how to write effective business correspondences, and how to present complex medical information to the toughest of crowds.
This position afforded me the opportunity to transition easily into a Human Resources career with one of the largest financial institutions in the world. I was still working in the disability area, but I gained further insight into business communications, HR policies and procedures, and, most importantly, writing.
I took every opportunity that came my way to write. I was selected to re-write all of the group employee correspondence letters. I edited and re-wrote policies and procedures. I edited copy published on the company’s intranet. I even edited my co-workers’ emails to managers, executives, and employees.
It was through my employment with this company that I was able to recognize that not only did I love writing creatively, but professionally as well. I decided to take the huge risk and juggle my professional career while going back to school. Deciding where to go and what to study was an ongoing internal debate in my mind.
If only there was a way I could combine my love of writing with my career aspirations. And then in the middle of August in the year 2011 I found just what I was looking for; a Master’s program in Professional Writing and Rhetoric at Chatham University. I applied, was accepted, and started classes within 2 weeks.
The rest, as they say, is history. Since then, the company I worked for did some restructuring and discovered it was more cost effective to outsource the disability unit in HR. After 6 years of service I was laid off.
Around the same time, I had an argument with a set of stairs and managed to fall going UP them. Needless to say, the stairs claimed victory when I found out I broke my ankle in two places, needed surgery, and would be non-weight bearing for at least 2 months.
To recap, I found myself without a job, and not even able to walk. To say I hit rock bottom was an understatement.
But wallowing in self pity was never an option for me. Besides, I would be graduating with my master’s degree in April…
And in the repetitive hours of sitting on the couch, flipping through re-runs of the Golden Girls and I Love Lucy, and feeling sorry for my pitiful self, I had what Oprah calls an “Aha!” moment. I was in the perfect position to make a fresh start, to finally make writing my career.
Once I came to this realization, the opportunities and experiences that were always there came to light and I realized that all of my seemingly non-related jobs in the past were all stepping stones. Stepping stones not to something new, but to a passion that was always inside of me; writing.
And now I was better equipped to serve my writing skills justice. I didn’t have any other obligations, I had 8 years of professional experience, a bachelors degree, and soon a master’s degree, and time. Time that birthed the start of Rhetorically Urs Professional Writing Services: a culmination of the perfect blend of a life filled with a passion for writing and the education and professional experience to support it.
UPDATE: It has been 2 years since I graduated with my Master’s degree in Professional Writing and started Rhetorically Urs. In these two years, I have had the pleasure of receiving a variety of assignments. I’ve written my fair share of resumes and cover letters, dabbled in editing of academic papers, graded standardized testing essays for high school and middle school students, and collaborated with Legal Nurse Consultants, Financial Advisors, and even a Neuroscientist on projects revolving around writing, editing, and communicating. I was also a keynote speaker and gave a presentation on the importance of successful communication/writing in business for the Pittsburgh Chapter of Legal Nurse Consultants.
During the day I go to work in Gynecologic Oncology Research at Magee Womens Hospital, where I get to write and create lab manuals, process flows, and communications that aid the cutting edge research studies at UPMC. The ability to put my writing, communication, and organization/project management skills towards helping to hopefully one day cure cancer is beyond fulfilling, but what makes this position even more rewarding is that it allows me to continue my freelance business on the side where I consult, write, and edit for a vast variety of clients. While it seems my “niche” in writing has and always will be in the medical field, I have completed so many diverse projects for a variety of clients, I look forward to what the future may bring my way!