I originally wrote this post in February of 2013. I decided that since I have five years of posts still up on WordPress that I’d subject you to a few of them. (The other five years have been archived.)
Fern Martin had a great question:
Karen, a question for you. I read on one of your blog posts that you wrote your first book as a child. You then went on to have a very eclectic work history. What made you decide, as an adult, that writing wonderful stories was what you wanted to do? Was there one thing that pushed you to it?
Great question, Fern. I’ve decided to answer you as honestly as I can. Unfortunately, the story is a little long-winded.
I was all gung ho about being a writer. I wrote my first novel when my infant son lay napping. It was a historical romance (although I didn’t know it at the time) about a woman living on a James River plantation.
Life pretty much got in my way of being a writer. I didn’t have time to write, I told myself. I was too busy putting one foot in front of the other. Little did I realize that life still raced by regardless of what you’re doing. In my twenties and early thirties, I went through enough trauma to last a lifetime. Again, I had a dream of writing but I was reeling from one circumstance to another.
Suddenly, my mother died.
She and I were very close. She’d been there during the death of my husband and the loss of my child. You would think, having gone through those tragedies, that I would have learned the lesson her death offered up, but evidently I hadn’t.
At her death I realized that life – as much as we don’t want to admit it – was fleeting. My last day may be today. I don’t have any guarantees of anything. My dream of being a writer was going to remain a dream unless I put some action behind it. Life wasn’t going to get easier or slow down so I could have the time to write.
Three weeks after my mother died, I was sent on a business trip to St. Louis. I’ve never publicly mentioned this before, but something happened on that trip. I was assaulted in the elevator of the hotel. When I returned home I was no longer just grief stricken. I was shocked, horrified, and angry.
The anger surprised me most of all. Maybe it was one of the stages of grief. All I knew was that I was tired of being flung this way and that by Fate, people, or circumstances. I wanted my life to be MY life, damn it. Let ME have some control.
A few weeks later, I did something that scared me even as I did it. I marched into my boss’s office, told him that I had always wanted to be a writer and that I was resigning. I figured I could live for a year on my savings and retirement fund. Since I was still supporting my youngest son, and I was a very well paid Marketing Director, it wasn’t the wisest move I could have made. My boss even tried to talk me out of it, sweet man that he was.
I think what I did is what people call a leap of faith.
I’ll save the rest of my publication story for later. Let’s just say it didn’t take just a year.
One of my greatest regrets is that my mother never lived to see any of my success. But if she hadn’t died the way she had, would I have had the courage to do what I did? If the assault in St. Louis hadn’t occurred just as I was trying to cope with my loss, would I have become so incensed, enough to change everything in my life? I often wonder. Maybe other circumstances would have pushed me.
That’s a very long-winded answer to your question, Fern. I’d like to add something more, if I may. Three pieces of unsolicited advice:
- Do what you love, because you never know how long you have in life.
- My mother died of a massive heart attack. Only later did I recognize some of the symptoms she had been experiencing. If I’d known then what I know now, I would have raced her to the emergency room. Make sure you’re aware of your own heart health.
- Expect the Spanish Inquisition – remember Monty Python? Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. But bad things happen to everyone. Don’t assume you’re exempt. Protect yourself.