How My Divorce Helped My Writing Career By Shirley Byers

I wouldn’t recommend it as a way to jumpstart a career but the truth is that after I was divorced my writing income began to grow, exponentially.

When my marriage ended I was writing about fifteen hours a week. I had produced two books and several dozen newspaper and magazine stories and I was earning less than a living income. Clearly I had to write more. I began clocking in at 9:00 a.m., working till 5:00 p.m., and often later.

But stepping up production wasn’t enough. At that time I was selling fairly regularly to several Christian kids magazines and Sunday School papers. I loved the work but many of the markets published infrequently, and couldn’t afford to pay much.

I needed another specialty and I didn’t have to look far to find it. I live in a rural community and for years I had dabbled in agricultural journalism. Now I was ready to get serious. I studied the ag publications, watched ag programs on TV, and listened to ag programs on the radio. I worked hard to familiarize myself with ag issues so that I knew how to spot the stories and ask the right questions.

These days I sell over forty stories every year to a weekly ag newspaper, and about a dozen to a glossy monthly ag magazine. I also sell regularly to a few other publications, some ag, some not ag and occasionally to a PR firm.

I’ve found that as I’ve written more, more requests for reprints have come along. I call that “found money”, but I also make an effort to re-sell my stories so, when I come up with an idea for a feature, I‚m already wondering if and where I can resell it. Throw in a few assignments from editors who have a story idea and need a writer and I have more than enough work. And I‚m doing okay, financially.

I learned to work harder and work smarter because I didn’t have a choice. I had to pay the bills. I was living in a single income home and I was that income.

Of course I wouldn’t advise anyone to get a divorce solely to advance their career.

But I would challenge you to find your pressure point. Figure out what it would take to make you write full time or as close to full time as you can manage, every day, to write like your living depends upon it.

Then, you‚re a writer, you can do this – just imagine that it does.

And see what happens.

Shirley Byers writes from her home in Western Canada. Besides several newspapers and magazines her work has also appeared in anthologies such as Best of the Children’s Market (Institute of Children’s Literature) and Chicken Soup for the Single’s Soul. Keeping with the poultry motif her 1998 book Never Sell Your Hen on a Rainy Day, (Sandhill Publications) manages to stay in print (just barely) and encourages her to keep on freelancing.


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