Dream Big – But Start Small By Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

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Many writers – including myself – have big dreams. We want to top the bestseller lists and see our novels made into major movies. We yearn for bylines in “the big time”, hoping to see our articles teased on the cover of our favorite magazines. We dream of the day that we can earn our living through our words, something I have achieved after many years as a writer.

To dream big, however, sometimes we have to start small. No one really dreams of becoming an advertising copywriter but my first real job after graduating from college with my B.A. in English and History, my A.A. in journalism was just that, advertising copywriter at a small market radio station. I might not have even gained that position had one of my former creative writing instructors recommended me for the job.

I was working at a Wendy’s restaurant when the call came that I had an interview for a job at the radio station. Six months out of college, job interviews no longer made me nervous and this one did not until the general manager took me to an empty newsroom and asked me to write some sample ads. He provided some basic information and left me. I stared at that blank sheet of paper for some time and finally, sure I had just lost any chance I had at the job, wrote the best facsimile of an ad I could summon. I knew I would not get the job – until two days later when I heard one of the ads I wrote on the radio. Later that day, I accepted the job and my career, however humble, as a writer had begun in earnest.

I learned to write copy and eventually won awards for some of my ads. I had not forgotten my dreams of becoming a “real” writer so evenings and weekends I hammered away at articles, short stories, and a novel. Like the Little Engine That Could, I slowly and steadily began to sell some of my writing. In those early days, my sole writing credit in my cover letters read, “I am an advertising copywriter at a radio station in southern Missouri”. By the time I sold my first piece to the Kansas City Star’s Sunday magazine, I believed that I could do what one of my college professors had predicted – become a working writer.

Years have passed since the days when I penned ads that trumpeted the supermarket specials or the department store sales or the blue-plate special at Mom’s Caf