How I Reinvented Writing (or I Am Shocked; Absolutely Shocked!) By Kathryn Howard

How I Reinvented Writing (or I Am Shocked; Absolutely Shocked!) By Kathryn Howard

I was a successful technical writer, but even with freelance work I never thought I was a true “writer.”

I am a red-haired, Barry-Manilow-loving mom of two. I also have bipolar disorder. Full-time tech writing and coordinating a post-9/11 letter writing campaign worked me into a relapse of the disorder and I fell apart. I lost my job, went on disability, and was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (I couldn’t use some forms of verbal and written communication) after receiving electroshock.

It took time to adjust to the new me. I had been self-sufficient; now I needed help remembering to brush my teeth! I lost or couldn’t decipher words.

Then something shifted. How many times had I said if I had more time I’d write, play with my kids, slow down–enjoy life. Here was the chance I’d been waiting for, even with wrinkles.

I reinvented myself. Looking at my strengths, I saw what I could do. So I’d lost 50 points on my IQ, I was still creative and resourceful and had a wicked sense of humor. I still had the words inside of me–I just needed some help getting them out.

Looking for ways to market my writing, I volunteered to write for a local non-profit on a short-term basis. I asked and was then paid to write for them. Using those clips, I sold pieces to websites in which I had expertise (disability rights, animal care, marketing, fund raising, event planning) and edited existing copy. I sold personal essay to local weekly newspapers. I scoured news for other successful people with disabilities, writing and publishing articles about them in online/print magazines. I created curriculum for writing and submission-motivation classes, teaching again at a local literary center.

I proposed an electronic newsletter for the literary center and will shortly begin the task of writing, editing, and producing the newsletter on a freelance basis.

I did reinvent myself. But now, I really am a “writer.”

K Howard lives in Rochester, NY, and is a freelance writer and writing instructor. Focusing on memoir, instructional and “how-to” works, creative nonfiction, and writing for non-profits and special-needs groups, she recreated herself after sustaining a traumatic brain injury in 2002. She welcomes other writers (with and without challenges) to contact her at