Recently I was challenged to tell my life story in six words. Being a novel writer who loves details, this was more than a little daunting. I think I finally figured it out.
I make plans and God laughs.
I am a planner. Since childhood. I enjoy working out details, crafting goals, and anticipating the plans becoming a reality. This planning, from inspiration to daydreaming to outlining, is also my favorite part of writing.
Unfortunately or fortunately, not sure which, sometimes both, God hears my plans and I can imagine him laughing. He has a great sense of humor. Looking back I definitely see that thwarting my plans was the best thing for me. At the time, however, I was often disappointed and frustrated when my expectations didn’t match reality.
I’ve been very disappointed and frustrated regarding my career. It took awhile for me to realize that teaching college was the best possible job for me. I absolutely loved the academic life, research, writing, reading, learning, and interacting with students and colleagues. That was pre-stroke. It took a long time to grieve the loss of that career and figure out what I was meant to do for the future.
Post-stroke I decided to follow my childhood dream of being a writer. But that hasn’t gone as planned either. I have great stories to tell, but my training and experience were for academic and non-fiction writing. My novel first draft was crap. I waited almost a year, read and studied a lot, and tried again. This draft is better, but not yet right. I’ve been very frustrated. Is God laughing again?
Visiting on the phone with a writer friend the other evening (Hey Tex!) we were comparing our writerly journeys. I was feeling very discouraged at the beginning of that conversation and mentioned how I am the queen of productive procrastination. I haven’t added any words to my WIP since last February. I haven’t published a blog post since October. In almost the same time period as I’ve been writing, she is about to publish her third novel. After hanging up, I began thinking about what I’ve been doing since 2010 that has kept me from publishing my novel.
- … had another stroke in August 2010, and spent months in speech and cognitive therapy.
- … wrote a number of short stories and flash fiction, learning what works and doesn’t work for me.
- … read over 100 novels, the majority of which were recently published as my studies and prior preference were for Victorian literature and I had to learn the current publishing market and audience.
- … attended numerous writing workshops.
- … served on the board of the local writers’ guild.
- … studied more blogs and books and websites on the business, craft, and art of writing fiction than I can remember.
- … loved and encouraged my husband through graduate school.
- … moved, downsizing from a house to an apartment half the size and minus the garage, attic, and yard.
- … attended critique groups, both in person and online.
- … dealt with the continuing residual effects of multiple strokes and TIAs.
- … trained a service dog, and also trained a number of businesses and organizations about ADA compliance and service dog etiquette.
- … married off one son, and launched another to succeed on his own.
- … started a social media platform to practice and promote my art.
Tex and I talked again the next day. I shared the breakthrough I had from analyzing our conversation and how I’ve spent the past six years. She summed it up succinctly, “That ain’t nothing.”
No, no it is not. The amount I have learned in the past six years could justify a DIY MFA. I have not wasted the time, but positioned myself to unleash the next chapter of my writing career from a much stronger position. This time I am setting myself up for success. And, I’ve also learned that there is often another option than God laughing: Sometimes God simply sighs and says wait. I haven’t been productively procrastinating; I have been productively investing in the writerly life that I planned.
Yesterday was my 47th birthday. Once again reality and expectation were a miss… for better and for worse. I hadn’t felt well the week before, so hadn’t planned anything special. Instead I woke up feeling almost normal, family members were available to celebrate with me, the weather was gorgeous, and everything worked out even better than we could have planned. Until the drive home. We were rear-ended. Our car is totaled and I am hurting.
My plan for the last month has been to relaunch this blog and get back on track to finish my manuscript in three months as my “Birthday Resolution.” Over the last few days I saw things weren’t lining up the way I planned, and was talking myself into waiting a bit longer. Then after the accident, when I realized how close Hubby and I were to not being able to walk away and return to our regularly scheduled lives, I realized it is time. No more planning, waiting, procrastinating, or studying writing in lieu of writing. That season, for me, is over. I am not guaranteed tomorrow. My job is to celebrate today, to be busy working at my calling, and to be grateful that I get to do this thing I love regardless of how it is received by others.
I am a writer. I make plans and God laughs because…
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (Proverbs 17:22).
“For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15).
Wishing you much laughter! ~~KM