Even though I didn’t realize it as a kid, I really was engineering material. My dad was a brilliant engineer. I was also gifted with an analytical mind. I liked designing stuff and testing it to see if it worked. I was so engineer. But apparently, I sucked at math, so, voila, I was placed in Pre-Algebra where I began my wandering down a life path of non-engineer “mediocrity.”
Naturally, after barely escaping high school, I ended up going to a strong engineering college…as a freaking English major! In an all-male military college of mostly engineers, Liberal Arts majors were relegated to a sub-class of sissies…and English majors were viewed as a special breed of flower-frolicking, poet-sissies. Fortunately, it was a military school, so I could “get a job” in the Army. I mean, what else was someone with a B.A. in English going to do?
After that little tour of duty, I landed smack-dab in the middle of the epicenter of the Engineer Universe—NASA—as, get this, a technical writer. Of course, even NASA or the company I worked for didn’t like to refer to us technical writers by that name, so they called us “analysts,” which was fine by me. I was still trying to erase the image of frolicking in daisies contemplating Keats. At least now I had access to cool engineering stuff. And while I still sucked at math, I was able to learn a lot over the years, as well as hone my technical writing skills.
Nonetheless, there was still a stigma of being a writer working with groups of engineers. People were nice enough and all. It just seemed like there was some unwritten Natural Law that writers and editors were…hmmm, how shall I put this…just not as smart as engineers. And while I worked hard to disprove this perception, it didn’t help matters when someone referred to us as “note-takers” or the “note guy.” Ugh.
Throughout the years, I was able to garner enough professional certifications in other technical areas and leave the writer dungeon. I thought it was forever, but alas, then came “downsizing.”
This gave me the opportunity to write my own book and start a consulting company. Doing what, you ask? Why, writing and editing, of course. Life also afforded me the opportunity to meet a fellow writer who not only became my business partner, but also my co-writer.
After no small amount of therapy sessions—not to mention successfully co-writing as ghostwriters and editors five books published in a year–I started getting okay with being a writer…especially as it started to pay enough to get me out of the “alternative employment for starving artists” lines of work, such as ranch hand, day laborer, and the like.
Then one day Wendy and I went to the grocery store where we happened upon a brand ambassador who struck up a conversation whilst trying to convince us to buy some sort of cheese and crackers, or whatever. So, she casually asked what we did for a living. With my newfound self-esteem, I confidently said that we were writers.
That’s weird!?! What? Wendy tried to console and encourage me, knowing that emergency therapy was most likely going to be in order.
“I can’t believe we were just told that being writers is weird…by a brand ambassador, no less!”
That’s when Wendy’s comedic genius began to shine.
“Maybe we should have told her we had some other more normal occupation?”
“Maybe sewage treatment plant screen cleaners…or tribal shamans. What about bush pilots?”
“Sled dog mushers,” I added. “Abalone shell divers.”
And so, after years of being relegated to the proverbial back of the bus of the academic and working worlds, we have been shamed to change our weird occupation as writers to something far more non-weird like tribal shamans or bush pilots.
Mark & Wendy are currently co-authoring a humor book in between writing jobs that actually pay the bills. For more on Mark & Wendy’s weird writing business, or other less weird gigs, such as tribal shamans, check out their webpage, MarkAndWendyWrite.biz