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Passion Projects: From Biomedical Engineer to Storyteller
by Arynetta Floyzelle
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minutes

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February 15, 2019

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10 Minute Read

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Passion Projects: From Biomedical Engineer to Storyteller

Biomedical Engineer Avione Lee took a break from her career in medical research to pursue her passion for storytelling. Here’s how she did it.

Biomedical Engineer Avione Lee took a break from her career in medical research to pursue her passion for storytelling.  The next thing you know, she and her husband had sold their house, bought an RV camper and were traveling the United States with their two small children. That’s the thing about following one’s passions, once you start, there is no end to the adventures the path may lead to.    

Avione Lee boondocking at Delfino Winery in Oregon.

What was your previous career?

I have a PhD in Biomedical Engineering and worked in medical research and development.

Why did you want to leave and do something else?

Though I did enjoy the people I worked with, I started to feel that this path was not for me. My mind would wander at work onto story ideas or a topic that I wanted to explore that had little to do with my field.

On top of that, my husband, who is also a biomedical engineer, and I realized that we barely got to see our children because we always had to finish up a research project that needed our attention. Our typical day entailed waking up around 5 a.m. so that we could get our children to their daycare at 6 am, working a full day, then picking our kids up from the daycare at 6 p.m. By the time we got home, all we had the energy to do was eat a family dinner and go to sleep.

My husband and I had talked about starting our own business and focusing on my writing for about a year. We also had the dream to take time off and travel as a family. But the demands of living a typical American life weighed on us. By this point, I was writing story ideas at night after everyone went to bed, and we tried to squeeze in as much fun family time as we could on the weekend.

After living this way for around a year, we found our own kind of groove. I was finishing up a book and I was able to get a side writing job. But we were still stuck in the 6 am to 6 pm grind.

What was your final “jumping point”?  What was the urge that finally made you move forward and do it — pursue your passion?

Surprisingly, it was a marathon! I won’t go into too much detail, but physical activity, especially when combined with meditation, can become an awakening experience as it was with my husband.  After running a half marathon he came back and said, let’s do it. Let’s at least try.

Within a year, we were making many of our dreams come true.

Within a year we were making many of our dreams come true. We quit our jobs, sold our home, bought an RV trailer, and traveled the country with our two children — at the time both were under five. Then we settled in and started an online business around another one of our passions, Korean drama, and I dedicated myself to my writing career.

Courtesy of @findingpaola

What is your current business, your “passion” business?

My passion is telling stories. So, much of my time is spent getting these stories out of my head, onto the page, and into a bookstore near you. It’s also been amazing how following this impulse has led to additional writing assignments. And my husband and I are huge fans of Korean Drama, that led us to starting DramaMilk.com. So, each of these elements are currently the parts of our business ‘passion pie.’

What gave you the idea you could turn it into a business?

I love reading, but I did not think about writing as a business ever in my life. However, since I had this idea that would not go away, I started looking into writing. This is where I put my research skills to use. I found out everything I could about supporting yourself through novel writing and decided that I should try.

Did you have any fears around turning it into a business?

Definitely. But, if you fear something then you should lean into it. I am a researcher, so I leaned into figuring out as much as I could about writing as a business. I researched the steps to take in order to have a viable novel writing career and familiarized myself with the self-publishing market, the traditional publishing market, and what it takes to succeed in both.

These days, Avione Lee’s office includes her favorite cafes.

What is a typical day like for you in your business?

After getting the kids to school, DramaMilk.com takes up the majority of our morning. After that, I can focus on writing. We spend the entire evening with our kids. I also have continued my midnight writing schedule. It is a really good life.

Is there anything that you wish you would have known about taking the step to turn your passion into your business that you would like to share with our readers?

Yes, for everyone who wants to change their career and become a storyteller, I suggest reading Save the Cat! It helped me immensely in getting my idea out of my head and onto the page. Two other books I highly recommend are Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande and On Writing by Stephen King.

What are three pieces of advice you would give a reader who wants to turn their passion into their business?

My first piece of advice is research, research, research! I am a researcher by trade, so I recommend leaning heavily into finding out everything you can about your industry. When was it founded? Who are the leaders of it? Who is making a successful living at it? What did they do to do that? When you dream, it is easier to see the future if you are not clouded by what you don’t know. So, do your research!

Next, start small. For me, the goal was just to get to 50,000 words using the NaNoWriMo method. I did this through 2-3 hour writing sessions every night. It was hard at first to write from 11 pm to 2 am — Lord knows I wanted to sleep — but nighttime was literally the only time I could write, so I made that time work. Now, I actually prefer writing at night.

And lastly, look at your living situation. Can you drop everything and pursue your passion right now? If not, what is holding you back? Is it your day job? Finances? Mortgage? For me, nothing was holding me back to start writing, so I just started. Giving up a career in the research field was the next step and something we had talked about for a solid year beforehand. For that, we looked at our finances to see if we could manage to take a year off to pursue our other interests. During that year off, we were able to get our startup business, DramaMilk.com, up and running, and I was given much more free time to write.

Thank you, Avione! And if you are a Korean drama enthusiast like The Lees, you can check out their website Dramamilk.com.  

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