How A Retired Master Plumber Became A Professional Writer, Newspaper Columnist, And Author! By Gary Sprague

How A Retired Master Plumber Became A Professional Writer, Newspaper Columnist, And Author! By Gary Sprague

Way back in the 1980’s, after graduating high school, I went to work for my father’s plumbing company. For over twenty years, I made my living as a plumber until my body began to break down. After two shoulder surgeries and a chronic back problem, I realized it was time to find a new line of work.

For most people, going from plumbing to writing isn’t exactly a natural transition. But I’d been writing short stories for a few years, with several accepted for publication in literary magazines. This was great while I was still working as a plumber, but as anyone who writes short stories knows, it’s not enough to pay the bills.

I decided to try and parlay my plumbing knowledge into writing jobs. At first, all I could find were jobs with the online content mills that pay $3 for 1000 words. I needed money, but I wasn’t that desperate.

Then I applied for a freelance job with a large national company as an expert home improvement writer. They liked my writing samples, and the plumbing license certainly helped. The pay averaged about $22 an hour, and I gained experience without working for pennies.

A few months later, I applied for a freelance writing job with an online HVAC company. Again, the plumbing license helped, and this time I had several writing samples to show from the home improvement writer job. This job paid an hourly wage, at twenty hours per week.

It’s been over two years, and I’m still working for both companies. I’ve continued to have short stories published, and recently I’ve begun guest blogging on parenting sites. It’s pretty good money for essays that only take an hour or two to write.

My advice to anyone would be:

1. Get a master plumbing license… Just kidding. I would suggest going with what you know. I know a lot about plumbing and other trades, so home improvement and HVAC jobs are perfect for me. I also know a lot about parenting, having been one for several years.

2. Another suggestion, strange as it may sound, is to check Craigslist. I looked on every freelance job site known to man, but my two main freelance jobs both came from listings on Craigslist.

3. Also, share links to your writing on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. A local newspaper editor saw a short story link that I shared on Facebook and contacted me. After sending a couple of emails back and forth, we discovered that he was a camper when I was a counselor at a summer camp years before. Not only that, but we now lived in the same neighborhood. We became friends and, before long, I was asked to write a monthly column for the newspaper.

I’ll admit, I still don’t make nearly as much as I did as a plumber. But, I get to work from home and see my family, and there’s no heavy lifting involved. In my opinion, that’s a fair trade.


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Gary Sprague lives in Maine with his wife and two sons. His fiction and
non-fiction have appeared in over 20 publications, including the Raleigh
Review and Grown and Flown. He’s written four novels and the humorous
Lettahs From Maine series, all available at You can read
his blog and find links to his stories and books at


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The craft of writing involves an interchange of emotions between an author and a reader. An author creates a story line, conflict, and characters, gives his characters words to speak, and then hands off these materials to a reader. This process results in a constant dialogue between the mental imagery produced by a reader and that proposed by the author.

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