I’ve told many people this story, but this is how I came to pursue writing novels and designing book covers.
After graduating with a degree in English (because I loved writing, and literature) everyone—friends, family, even people I only talked to for mere minutes while ordering a drink—asked me if I was going to be a teacher or a lawyer. I thought, well, I don’t really want to be a lawyer.
I had a reputable resume for teaching, and I could imagine worse ways to spend a career than talking about books that I love. One day I was talking to my friend, who has known me since I was 13, and she said, “If you wanted to be a teacher, you’d already have done it. I don’t think you want to be a lawyer OR a teacher.”
I put up a feeble defense using my credentials in teaching before admitting that it was completely true. I didn’t feel called to do it. I didn’t like the organizational structures of schools. It was true that I had undergone teaching ventures time and again, but I never loved it.
I never felt emboldened (okay, once I was substituting at a private school, and I was supposed to review grades—which I was in no position to do as a substitute—so I gave an impromptu inspirational speech about working hard and overcoming things that you don’t think you’re good at doing. It was pretty much an amalgamation of lessons I’d garnered from TED talks, and at the end the students all applauded me! I also had some fun working at a private school for girls in England, when a group of the youngest kids (aged 11) saw me outside while passing between lessons, they ran over and tackled me out of excitement).
But the time structure of schools did not suit me. Preparing lessons based on someone’s decided curriculum did not suit me. Having a bureaucracy of authority and a lack of direct communication did not suit me. Walking into big buildings and knowing that I was on the bottom because of some arbitrary delineation of credibility did not suit me.
I had completed my application for my MA in Education—including high CSET test scores for English, letters of recommendation from admirable people in the field, and a statement of purpose that I had labored to write to showcase my syntax and diction. When I moved to Los Angeles while my partner started medical school, I took the application to the department at Cal Poly Pomona, and they told me that they wouldn’t accept my application late because my “extenuating circumstances” weren’t legitimate.
At first I was upset, but I immediately got hired in a long-term sub position as a supervising coordinator for an afterschool program. It. Was. Hell. When I threw my MA application in the dumpster, I felt a huge weight lift off of my shoulders.
That winter, I listened to career coach podcasts and read blogs about what to do with myself. One of the best pieces of advice that I got was to find where your unique skill set meets your interests. I wrote down lists of subjects that I liked, and skillsets that would support me based on my experience. I wanted to combine writing, editing, art, design, entrepreneurship, social interaction, and a few other things. I started taking online courses in graphic design and building businesses at night. I read tons of books for guidance and inspiration (and I still do).
That’s how I came up with creating book covers. I want to pursue it full time, but I know that I have a lot of outreach, marketing, and building still to do. Business was the only thing that made me feel inspired, passionate, and excited. I love creating, building, new ideas, and people.
I also love writing, and I make it a daily habit to continue to work on my novels. If you want something, you have to commit yourself. I can commit myself to writing so much more easily than I ever could to teaching or to working for someone else.
In Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination, J.K. Rowling said, “Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.” That’s how I felt, venturing away from teaching and into business. I blaze forth with ambition in my heart, and the voices of people I respect telling me it will be difficult to succeed.