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The Benefits of Work You Love

Twenty years ago this month I quit my 9-to-5 job and started as a self-employed science writer.

I started my science-writing business Quantum Writing the month after our second child was born. I called my mom and told her I was leaving my job as the senior communications person at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

“But what about the benefits?” asked the protective grandmother of our two kids, the other an 18-month old.

It was a helpful question. One to which I’ve often returned. What are the “benefits” I was looking for in work?

During an ergonomics assessment in 2000 in my first “corner office”—in the basement of a friend’s bookstore.

First, I wanted to be alive for my kids. The previous winter, I’d escaped being badly hurt in a car accident during a snowy 90-minute commute to work. Stopped at a red light, I glanced into my rear-view mirror in time to mentally project the emerging scene: icy asphalt; a 1980s Buick clearly going too fast to stop in time. I braced for impact. Luckily, I walked away with whiplash. The commute—even with a coffee and drive home radio—wasn’t a benefit, but a liability.

That accident was the bump that pushed me to start Quantum Writing.

I loved being part of Canada’s natural history museum and sharing its story, but I knew that what I really love is writing. In particular, writing about science. And, I have a strong entrepreneurial urge. I also saw that at the time we were in the midst of a flowering in science communication. There were dozens of government and private sector agencies and companies eager to tell their science, technology and health stories, but without the internal capacity.

Taking my newborn daughter for walks amid the autumn leaves an idea was born: Quantum Writing.

I went to a gov’t surplus store and bought a heavy, old-style oak desk—ones being disposed of in favour of particle-board cubicle setups. I only realized when I got it home that the desk had belonged to the famous, recently retired, Canadian Museum of Nature Ice Age mammal researcher Richard Harrington. I considered it an auspicious coincidence.

The benefits of my decision have been enormous.

As a self-employed dad, I’ve had the flexibility to be deeply present for my kids’ growth. Now that we are empty nesters and I know this was really the greatest benefit.

I’ve spent two decades immersed in language, ideas, stories and discoveries. As a curious mind, I’ve revelled in the enormous diversity of topics clients have trusted me to write about—from astrophysics to zoonoses.

And I deeply appreciate and enjoy the North America-wide group of clients, colleagues, and friends that Quantum Writing has fostered.



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