The first of an occasional series about the Rumpus team

Melissa’s entire life history

Where to begin? I could start with being an avid reader and the fastest Dewey Decimal-cracker my local library had ever seen—that’s right, they were highly impressed when I applied for the page position and they tested my skills on reshelving books. But my writing career truly began in elementary school, when I wrote and illustrated my first—and only, so far—book. I upset my mom when I gave the book to my art teacher, Mrs. Woolever, rather than her, but I must have felt my teacher deserved the book most. I remember Mrs. Woolever telling me that she couldn’t wait to see my work in print as a famous author, and while I haven’t written a best-seller yet, I think I do some pretty important work.

Fast forward to my college years, when I began taking publishing and editing courses with hopes of working in a large publishing house one day. However, this small-town Indiana girl wasn’t sold on the idea of living in a big city, and sought a different career path. After discovering the emergency veterinary hospital near my college campus, I realized I had found the perfect fit—I could be a veterinary technician. Previously, I had thought my only animal care career choice was to become a veterinarian, but I wasn’t thrilled about eight years of schooling. Having “wasted” a year on my editing courses, I applied and was accepted to Purdue’s veterinary technology program.

Despite an almost full-time job, a grueling course load, and an active social life, I have never enjoyed anything as much as those years at Purdue obtaining my associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. If I could be a perpetual student—without the looming student loans—I would choose that career path in an instant.

After graduation, I slowly settled into a small, rural veterinary clinic that catered exclusively to dogs and cats, where I was able to fully use my skills, and encouraged to continue learning. However, after eight years of battling all the assorted issues veterinary professionals face, I was burned out, and while I still loved animals and veterinary medicine, I needed to be out of a practice setting. 

Since 2018, I had also been a part-time writer for Rumpus Writing and Editing—an effort to supplement the typical miserly vet tech wage. Fortunately for me, the company was growing, and with perfect timing, owner Sarah Rumple offered me a full-time position in January 2020, where I could work from the comfort of my own home, writing blogs to educate pet owners about caring for their four-legged friends. Switching to become a full-time writer was a no-brainer, and I jumped at the chance, delighted to have the opportunity to continue to use my veterinary technician knowledge.

I still occasionally perform relief work, but I don’t miss the daily struggles associated with veterinary medicine. Plus, I have great mentors who help me learn and grow every day as I continue with my writing career that fulfills my introvert—and mortgage payment—needs.  

The daily grind

You may not have realized writing is a real job, with full-time commitments. But, as my husband can tell you, it definitely keeps me busy, and not only because I’m a professional procrastinator and night owl. Between meetings, research, and staying on top of the latest updates in the field, sometimes I have little time for actual writing. It doesn’t help that I’m easily distracted by our baby goats, or that I much prefer to work late at night and sleep in than begin my day early.

My typical day looks something like this:

7 a.m. — Wake up to my husband’s alarm and snuggle deeper into my blankets while he actually travels to his job

9:30 to 10 a.m. — See how long the dogs will let me sleep before they demand breakfast, and eventually haul myself out of bed

10 to 11 a.m. — Take care of our herd, which consists of three dogs, two cats, two chickens, and 13—and counting—goats

11 to 11:30 a.m. — Breakfast time!

11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. — Time to do some actual work

2:30 to 3 p.m. — Lunch time!

3 to 5 p.m. — Writing is exhausting, and so is being pregnant, so an afternoon nap is often a necessity

5 to 9 p.m. — Entertain the husband after he arrives home from work, take care of the animal kingdom again, try to plan and cook dinner, and procrastinate a little more

9 p.m. to 12 a.m. — Hopefully, finish my assignments for the day 

12 to 1 a.m. — Unwind, and let my brain rejuice by reading strictly for fun

It looks like I spend a large portion of my day sleeping and eating, I know—and I didn’t account for all the snack times—but I manage to create two or three blog posts per day, attend a meeting or two, compose some email copy, and offer feedback on team projects.   

Overall, I am so incredibly blessed to have found a unique way to use my veterinary knowledge and natural writing skills—although they could always use more work! I love the flexible schedule, despite not being able to truly “clock out” and leave work behind, since I’m always thinking about that next deadline. But being able to work during my most productive periods, and take care of household tasks and run errands when my brain needs a break, is fantastic. Plus, I’m a major introvert who would much rather hang out with my goats than co-workers or clients, and I have this freedom writing for Rumpus. Who wouldn’t choose this adorable face over a demanding client?

My ramblings may not impart any secret writing tips—maybe next time—but my story is an example of how you can turn your career path in an unexpected direction. And, for all you veterinary technicians out there who wonder what else you can do with your degree, consider taking on blog post writing, social media management, and client education tasks for hospitals, not only to pad your income, but also to prevent falling into a rut or burning out. Of course, if writing isn’t your thing, you know who to contact for help.   

Editor’s note: Melissa Murray is one of a team of Rumpus Writing and Editing writers whose blogs help practices grow by providing educational—but fun—information for pet owners on caring for their beloved pets. She also writes business-to-business communications for veterinary organizations.