Aspiring writers frequently ask me about the secret to my success. Most of them seem shocked by my answer. I won’t keep you in suspense by making you read an entire blog post before I make the big reveal. The secret to this writer’s success is her mom.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. My mama. If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ve likely heard me mention her influence on my life more than once. She’s an awesome woman (and I’m not just saying that cause she’s my mom). It’s not shocking to those who know my mom why I give her so much credit. She’s earned it.
Long before there were life coaches, there was my mom. She’s been my number-one cheerleader my entire life. Having her in my corner has made everything I’ve accomplished possible. This is the story of our journey.
Gripping a pencil – and my future
Since I was old enough to hold a pencil in my hands, I knew I wanted to be a writer. There was something indescribable about the feeling it gave me. To this day, I struggle to find the right words to capture the awe I felt (which is saying something for a professional writer).
My mom was the one who helped me discover my love of writing through her eagerness to teach me before my kindergarten years began. It’s one of the clearest memories I have from my early childhood. She would patiently draw letters for me to trace and correct how I held my pencil when experimenting with my grip.
Once I learned how to write, I couldn’t stop. I would trace letters, write my name, and practice the words I knew. To this day, I still prefer the feel of a pen or pencil in my hands to a keyboard when writing. I’ve written entire novels by hand. Don’t get me wrong. I like technology. Still, it’ll never replace how I feel when cranking out inspirational thoughts by hand.
My Kingdom for a squirrel
Between the ages of 10 and 13, I spent a lot of time in my backyard. Fellow Gen-Xers won’t find this astonishing because that’s just what we did when we were kids. However, one of my favorite activities while outside was making up stories about the things I observed. I made up an entire adventure series about a squirrel that lived in our giant oak tree.
No matter what I created, my mom oohed and ahhed about it. Every time she congratulated my work, she gave me the encouragement I needed to keep writing. The more I wrote, the better I became at my craft. By the time I was in high school, I was taking journalism classes and advanced writing courses intending to make writing my lifelong ambition.
Lots of people told me I was foolish for thinking I could make a living as a writer. Not my mom. She taught me to follow my heart. All my heart wanted back then – and still to this day – was to write.
Just a writer in training
When it was time to go off to college, there was little doubt about my major. It had to be something about writing. The more I looked at writing careers, the more depressed I became. Our friends over at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) informed me that employment opportunities for writers weren’t all that great.
I’m a stubborn gal, so I didn’t want to hear it. My life was going to include writing, and that was that. After much consideration, I settled on journalism. I’d dabbled in the craft during high school, serving as the editor of our high school newspaper, the Blue and White Star.
I knew that I’d at least have a chance of earning a living as a journalist once I graduated. Back then, digital media outlets weren’t as popular as they are today, so lots of print newspapers and publications were thriving. My other option was advertising, but I wasn’t exactly a fan of that style of writing back then (oh how times have changed).
Questioning all my life choices
College was hard for many reasons. One of them was that I had to work full time and go to school full time to pay for it (that’s a much longer story). Let’s just say I don’t advise following that plan unless you have no alternatives.
I had a journalism professor who worked in the business for 20 years before he became a teacher. He was hard on me – even made me question my career choice more than a few times. It was my mom who encouraged me to keep pushing through every time I said that maybe he was right, and I wasn’t cut out to be a journalist.
If it wasn’t for my mom reminding me that I’m a stubborn woman who doesn’t give up easily, I probably would have switched majors and ended up miserable. My career hasn’t always been easy, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
Making more moolah at Bob Evans
Working as a waitress at Bob Evans was how I put myself through college. As fun as it was, it wasn’t how I wanted to spend my life. I was so excited when I got my first real job offer from a newspaper about six months after graduation. It was with a small Central Pennsylvania newspaper reporting on the education and political beats.
My excitement quickly turned to disappointment when I realized I could make more money continuing to work at Bob Evans than as a reporter. My mom reminded me we all had to start somewhere, so I sucked it up and made the move. After a year there, I had a better offer at another newspaper closer to my hometown. Up the career ladder I went.
I would spend the next decade working as an education reporter before getting married and starting a family. It was then that I shifted from being someone’s employee to being my own boss with the launch of The Write Reflection™. Working for yourself is hard, y’all. Once again, I had my personal cheerleader in my corner, rah-rahing me on.
The once and future writer
I’ve done many things since I first graduated from college. I’ve worked as a reporter, in public relations and marketing, and now as an SEO copywriter and content writer for clients all over the world. Heck, I’m a published author (something I never thought would happen). I still dabble in PR and marketing for the right clients but prefer any prospect that lets me put pen to paper. Every one of these opportunities has capitalized on my formal college training and love of writing.
A few months ago, my mom reminded me there was a time when I thought I had wasted my life and my hard-earned money in college. She’s not wrong. No matter how many times she tells me how proud she is of how far I’ve come, I’ve often wondered if I made a huge mistake.
One thing I know for sure is I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my number-one cheerleader. My mom didn’t grow up with the same advantages that I did. She didn’t have the financial resources to go to college. She worked hard and built herself up, finding success despite the many challenges she faced. It's not an exaggeration to say she's my hero.
Every time I’ve felt like giving up along my journey, she’s reminded me that quitting isn’t an option. I am the strong, successful woman you see today because of my mom’s sacrifices and never-ending encouragement. I can only hope I’m half the mom to my son that she’s been to me.
Happy Mother’s Day, mom! I love you!
Shari L. Berg is the owner/operator of The Write Reflection, and a writing professional for 25 years.