I was five years old when I decided I wanted to make my living writing novels. It’s the only thing that has never changed about me. As I grew older, friends and family let me know how difficult it was to make a living as a writer. Becoming a writer, it seemed, was not a very practical plan. I listened to everyone else who told me what I should do instead, and I tried that for a while.
I went to college, then worked for an insurance company. I wrote novels in my spare time, and put them in my drawer. Now and then I’d send one out to an editor somewhere, and when it was rejected, I would be crushed and spend my evenings doing something else. Then the need to write another story would come along, and I would eventually write it, and put it in the drawer, too.
When I was in my late 20s, I started training in martial arts. Sometimes I think this was the first good idea I’d had all by myself that I didn’t need anyone else to endorse or validate. On the very first day, my instructor showed me how to kihop (the Korean word for the martial arts shout that you remember from all those Bruce Lee movies). I felt like I had finally found my voice. I learned that I could say something out loud, even a thing someone didn’t want to hear, and nothing awful would happen.
Of course, sometime later I found out that awful things could happen, but that’s another story for another day. In the meantime, I learned how to stand up for myself, to make choices for myself and to stop listening to other people. This experience actually led me to a writing career, although not exactly the one I had always sought. I began writing about martial arts, about women and empowerment. It was a wonderful experience and I don’t regret a minute of it. But it was not the kind of writing I had wanted to do from the time I was five.
When I was 40, a succession of mistakes, bad luck, fate (or possibly karma, but then I’d have to believe that I was a *really* bad person in a former life) and the accumulated fatigue of a long life of effort made me step away from everything I was doing and just say “stop.”
I had to find my voice again. I had to give myself a real chance to be the person I wanted to be. For me, that meant getting rid of pretty much everything I had (except the kid and the immensely cool dragon I got in Chinatown) and starting again from the ground up.
It’s now a few years later, and I’ve done enough navel-gazing to know that the lint isn’t going to reveal any secrets any time soon.
What now? That’s what this blog’s about. I hope you’ll chime in with your stories about your pivotal moments, your “what now”s, your second acts. Together we can figure out what works and what doesn’t and how we can build the life we want from the ground up.
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