I am a nurse. I am also a writer. Having been torn between these two passions as a young adult, I feel fortunate to have been able to achieve success in both callings. I really do view both of these aspects of my life as callings. The desire to help people and the love of the written word have enriched my life in many ways. And, at times, I have questioned my worth in both areas. Still, at the age of 59, I find myself deeply entrenched in both nursing and writing. I am also fascinated at how intertwined they are in my life.
As a young child, I made my career choice during a hospitalization. I was not quite five years old, and was captivated by the nurses in their crisp white uniforms and crown-like caps. I remember thinking “That’s what I want to be when I grow up.” They comforted me when I was sick and, as I felt better, they played with me and made me laugh. Most of all, they helped me to feel safe.
As I grew older, I developed a love for science that further confirmed my destiny. Then, in high school, I took creative writing and journalism along with the requisite literature and grammar classes. By my junior year, I was mentally toying with a career in journalism and exploring various colleges that could help me achieve that goal. I had not abandoned my nursing dream, but was tempted by what I saw as a more esoteric and exotic career path. Naturally, I had big plans to also write a bestselling novel . I am still working on that.
However, I fell in love during my senior year and was married shortly after high school graduation. I had my daughter a year and half later. My two dreams landed on the back burner as I started my family. My daughter was and still is the great miracle of my life. Unfortunately, the marriage ended and I found myself alone with a baby before my twenty-first birthday. As a struggling single mother, I barely had time to pursue one dream, let alone two. I realized that nursing would guarantee me a job and allow me to support myself and my daughter. I lamented my lost imaginary writing career, but I did journal as I navigated the dark waters of divorce and the death of my father.
I attended nursing school in the evenings while working full-time during the day as a nursing assistant. Upon graduation, I embarked on what has become a thirty-plus year career which has allowed me to care for patients in a variety of settings including oncology, hospice, HIV programs, psychiatry and, most recently, in home care.
My writing has been sporadic and it is only in recent years that I have actually considered myself a serious writer. I have dabbled in poetry and essays, but my real niche is, not surprisingly, in medical writing. My first published article was for On Call Magazine, which was an online medical publication by the Boston Globe. The hospital where I worked had just opened a new state of the art cardiovascular center. I wrote a query letter to the editor and was given a two -part feature article. I was ecstatic and scared to death. Then, I remembered that the article was going to profile exciting new programs and the people who were running them. I just needed to do the research and interviews. This calmed my anxiety. In 2007, my articles were published, complete with a photo shoot. I was paid generously for them. The best part, however, was seeing my name in print.
Over the years, I have been privileged to write narrative interviews in several medical magazines and have been a frequent contributor to Advance for Nurses. I have recently started a part-time freelancing business and have branched out into blogging and ghost writing. Although nursing is still my primary career, I look forward to the day when nursing can supplement my writing as opposed to the other way around. My advice is to write about what you know. Think about your interests, your friends, your job, and everything that matters to you. I would also suggest joining a writers group, even if you are only able to do so online. Feedback from others can be enlightening and reassuring. Immerse yourself in writing as much as you would with any new venture. Above all, do not let the fear of rejection stand in your way. I came to the conclusion long ago that even a rejection letter is proof of courage. And what dream doesn’t require courage for its realization?
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Kimberley S. Jordan-Horte is a registered nurse and freelance writer living in Massachusetts. Her other interests include music, gardening and community service.