Today I had to go to Suntrust Bank and answer the question “May I ask why you are closing your account with us?”
“Because my writing business failed.”
I came to terms with this more than a year ago, but saying it out loud brought tears to my eyes. I’ve put off closing my business account for several months, but I can no longer postpone the inevitable because they will soon be charging a new $10.00 per month fee for bank balances below $1000. I had $2.82 in mine.
I knew there was no guarantee of success when I started the business, but it’s hard to look back on the optimism I once had now that I see how this particular story has ended. It certainly wasn’t what I had in mind. I wanted to have a copywriting business – writing things like brochures, website copy, newsletters, direct mailings, flyers, and the like. Something I could do from home to try to earn money while I was home with two young children. I worked outside the home two days a week at a law firm, but my husband and I desperately need more income. Like so many families, we could not afford the daycare so that I could work full time.
I invested a huge amount of time, money, and energy in trying to get the business going. I attended networking meetings throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C. The meetings in Washington were particularly brutal – between the drive time, the Metro, and networking, I would spend 8-9 hours for a 2-hour meeting. I did this several times a month – sometimes twice in one week, all while rising early in the morning to either tend to the kids or to go to work. I invested money in printing up my own brochures and postage to mail out postcards for my business. I paid meeting fees, membership dues, Metro fees, office supplies, and exorbitant gas prices. I drafted endless writing samples and put up a website. I gave out my business card and got quite a collection of others in return.
Though I knew there was no guarantee of success, I believed in myself. For years I sent out my own direct mailings – in the form of query letters for my screenplays. Several producers responded and told me my query letter was the best they had ever received (over 50,000 screenplays are registered with the WGA every year. These producers get A LOT of query letters). One producer called me at home to tell me that (alas, her production company dealt only with reality programming, so she couldn’t take my script). Yet another was going to send me my return postcard, but she decided it was so clever that she wanted to keep it. She called me to request my script, rather than relinquish the card. Two production companies told me that their policy was to not read unsolicited screenplays, but they would read my script anyway because of my letter. Two weeks ago, a producer contacted me and said that even though the script doesn’t really sound right for him, he could not bring himself to throw my query letter away. He had held onto my letter for years. He requested a copy of the script.
In 2008, I received only one paying job. I was hired to develop a concept and write an educational video for attorneys for the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland. The video won a First Prize Gold Peer Award from the Television, Internet, and Video Association (TIVA) of Washington, D.C.
I do believe I have some degree of talent – enough to be a good advertising copywriter. After all, producers were actually KEEPING my query letters. But it was not to be. Lots of people at meetings said “we’ll call you”. Few did. One woman in particular told me she really needed copywriting for her website and she wanted to meet for coffee the next week to discuss it. I never heard from her. My own calls went unreturned. I’m still pissed about that.
So when do you give up? Would my business have succeeded if I just hung on a bit longer? Maybe. But time goes on. Debt goes up. Postage goes up. My kids are in school full time and now I have a full time job. I suppose it doesn’t make sense to keep trying anymore.
I have to accept that it simply didn’t work.
One of the few things I hate about my day job – like most day jobs – are the stupid hours. I would love to come in very early in the morning to do my work so I can be home in time to get the kids off the bus. Instead, like most workers, I get in my car at the same time in the morning and leave at the same time as everyone else. That way, we’re ALL stuck in traffic at the same time. Our tempers our short with lots of time and human and car energy wasted. If I worked from home as a copywriter, this wouldn’t happen. I’d be home with my kids. I wouldn’t have my pay docked for two weeks in a row for being late due to traffic. I wouldn’t have to eat dinner with my kids at nearly 7pm.
BUT I WON’T EVER HAVE TO WONDER WHAT IF.
Sometimes, when I’m trapped in traffic, I catch myself thinking – I should try to work from home. Then it all comes flooding back. Oh yeah. I tried that.
I tried that.
You better believe I tried that. I gave it all I had. I don’t kick myself for being stuck in traffic because I have to work a day job with the same hours as the rest of the planet. It’s not my fault, because I did everything I could to make things different for myself and for my family.
It’s time to let go of the idea of a writing business. Was it the economy? Was I really no good? Was there just no market? I don’t know. Probably never will.
I’ll continue to write novels and screenplays, which I never did for the money. I knew that success in that type of writing was a very, very long shot. I don’t do that kind of writing for money or for success. I’ve been writing for 16 years so far and haven’t ever given up. There was not one single moment in 16 years when I ever wanted to walk away.
I write stories because that’s who I am. I just checked my pulse. My heart is still beating. So it’s not time to give up on that dream just yet.