The Back Story: On Becoming a Writer

My Saved Journals“I want to write a book,” I said to myself, at the young age of 11 years old. My father had just taken a new engineering job that moved us from the suburbs of Philadelphia, to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I must have sensed that writing was what would get me through our new and adventurous overseas life. A way to document my experiences, thoughts, events, and then make sense of it all.

I dabbled here and there with it but it wasn’t until I was 14 years old, living in Venezuela — our next stop, that writing became routine. My English teacher had gotten us to start journaling as a daily assignment. I was apprehensive at first. But it didn’t take long for me to feel safe expressing myself. See the picture of my first three journals from English class (along with the picture of my English teacher, Tom Jacobs); I still have them, which is amazing and crazy. From then on for the next 15 years at least, words on paper are truly what got me through life. It’s safe to say that having Tom Jacobs as my teacher in 9th and 10th grade, was a life changing experience.

Journaling was an essential part of my personal growth from my teenage years and into adulthood. Later, that practice somehow led to my career as a Technical Writer.

But by 17 years old, I had forgotten my idea of writing a book. Thinking I was better at math and science, I had decided to be just like dad, — an engineer, so I too, could have a traveling career working on interesting infrastructure projects around the world. While I focused on applying to engineering schools for college, my writing continued to grow my senior year in high school. My religion teacher (I went to an all girls Catholic boarding school), taught me to analyze important social issues on paper. Our senior year AP English class capstone assignment was a term paper. I really didn’t think I could pull it off, thinking, I am a number cruncher, not a writer! But my teacher’s process worked so well for me that I got an A!

Still, my heart set on engineering, I pursued that avenue, got accepted into an incredibly challenging engineering school in Massachusetts, and quickly realized it was the wrong path for me. I was lost!

It took me years after that to finally arrive at my career in technical writing, through a long and winding road, — I went into accounting, international development, business consulting/contracting, and a variety of other ventures. Some of those involved writing which made me realize that I really enjoyed it as a profession. After putting feelers out, I landed work in government proposal writing with environmental and construction firms contracting primarily with the Department of Defense. And for the next 12 years, I built my career in technical writing working, in large part, with engineers and scientists. Oh, the irony!