The beginning and end of an era.
When I started my medical transcription career 25 years ago, I was a young wife looking for a job where I could stay home with my future children. My first job was with a small transcription company run by a lady named Mary Lou. She became my mentor and taught me everything I needed to know. In fact, I learned so much that I opened my own business a few years later and then sold it when the kids were born.
Medical transcription sustained me every time my life was in upheaval. Even during the worst of times, I could always find a transcription job to give me plenty of work. The rest of my life was often chaotic and unstable, but my MT career was steady.
Of course, it’s not the same now. Big companies swallowed little companies and paid their independent contractors peanuts. Voice recognition also came into the picture and turned my days of typing into editing for four cents per line. When people would ask me how they could get into medical transcription, I’d warn them that the profession was a dinosaur on its way out.
Transcribing was never my dream job. Since the fourth grade, I have wanted to be a writer. I’ve been writing a memoir on and off for three years, but it seemed like I was the only one who would ever read it. I didn’t know the first thing about publishing or marketing, but it was like I couldn’t NOT write the book. My story feels like it’s bursting to be told, and it was that persistence that got me to the end of my rough draft. The only problem was time. Between my day job and taking care of my family, I hardly had time to edit what I’d written.
About nine months ago, I started writing articles on Medium. It was the first time I shared my words with the world. Finding the writing community that exists here made me feel like I wasn’t being silly about my endeavor. People were kind and supportive, and the advice they gave me was golden. I’d never had writer friends before, but now I talk to them even more than my “real life” friends.
Still, there was the time constraint. I spent most of my days transcribing and then sneaking in writing time after that. Every time I sat at the computer to work in the last few weeks, I would grumble and bellyache in a way I never had before. I used to love transcription, but it soon became an annoyance that ate into what I really wanted to be doing.
All of that changed yesterday.
I took a serious look at my income and realized that I’ve been making twice as much writing articles than I have from working my day job. It made me wonder what could happen with my writing career if I gave it all my focus instead of just dabbling. Armed with my research, I wrote an email to my boss and resigned from the transcription company. She wrote me back and told me that two weeks’ notice wasn’t necessary. Her plan was to disable my account from the system at the end of the day. After over two decades of being a medical transcriptionist, I typed my last report yesterday and signed off for good.
It surprised me how sad I felt seeing a huge part of my life come to an end. Whenever people asked what I did for a living before yesterday, I’d tell them with no hesitation. Will I be able to confess now that I’m a writer? Some people already know I write, but defining myself as a writer has always been hard for me. It seems silly, almost frivolous, and I expect my friends to roll their eyes after I say it. Part of that is low self-esteem, which I’ll have to tackle going forward if I’m going to be successful. It seems bold to declare to the world that I am a writer even though it’s true now.
I’m not sure how I fit into my new skin. I’ve always loved to write, but now I feel a new sense of urgency to find my place. For me, writing was never about money. Sure, it was nice to make a little extra cash from my articles, but I wasn’t depending on that money to survive. That’s all changed now, and I wonder how it will change me. Will I still be able to write what I want when I want, or will I have to freelance and write on other people’s topics? There are so many questions where I don’t have the answers yet.
I’m the type of person who wants to know everything in advance — no surprises. Now I realize that striking out on my own will be full of surprises, some good and some bad. I’ll have to learn to roll with the punches and deal with rejection by standing up and fighting another day. I’ll have to be braver than ever before if I want to succeed. I’ll have to do things I’m not comfortable with and test the limits of my comfort zone.
There is no getting ready anymore — it’s GO time! I’m grateful to be in a position where I can work doing what I love. I get to control my own destiny, and I’m excited to see what happens.
If you are a full-time writer, I’d love to hear your best advice on how you manage it day to day. Any tips and tricks are also welcome.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get to work.