Our topic on The Debs this week was a sort of take-it-as-you-will topic. Fall. Naturally, at this time of year, one’s mind turns to pretty leaves, but the more I pondered the word, the more I began to link fall with falling, and eventually falling with landing.
We recently adopted a rescue cat named Marley. We find ourselves looking at her sprawled out on a fleece pillow, in the best chair, melted into a pile of furry bliss in front of the wood stove, and shake our heads at how lucky we all are to have found each other. My husband, the Southerner, is likely to say to her, “Miss Marley, you’re fartin’ through silk drawers now.” As a West Coaster, I put it differently. I say to her more than once a day, “Marley, this time when you fell, you landed on all four feet.” (I say it that way because, according to my husband, “Down South, we got language, out west, y’all just got words.”)
The truth is that I have made a lifetime of choices that left me falling, but when I landed, it was almost always solidly on two, big size-10 feet (usually in very good shoes). I’m not sure why I have been so lucky, but I think it’s my willingness to take chances.
After college, I moved to England on a work exchange program. They gave me a work permit, but I was on my own for finding a job. After seven weeks in London, when I was down to my last fifty pounds (money – not weight), I landed a job in the north of England. When I got there – the job was as a housekeeper working for Outward Bound – not a soul there admitted to having posted a want ad for a housekeeper. According to them, my letter asking for a job had arrived out of the blue, just when they needed someone, so they’d hired me.
When it became clear that my first agent and I were not a good match, I did what I didn’t think I’d ever be brave enough to do…I left. Almost a year before, when I had several offers on the table for representation, my current agent, Michael Bourret told me that he could not offer to rep me at that time (essentially, he didn’t feel my manuscript was ready), but if I was ever looking again, to let him know. At the time, I thought, “How nice. And funny. I’m not going to be looking for an agent ever again! I know what I’m doing here.” One amicable agent/writer parting later I was on the hunt again. I did an in-depth revision, fired off a “Remember when you said…?” email to Michael, and a few months later, he offered to rep me. Or as you know from a few weeks ago…he never actually offered, but the deal was done. Again…I landed on my feet.
Writing Restoring Harmony was one of the biggest chances I’ve ever taken. It is a departure from everything I’d ever written before. I had been a safe writer. I’d taken “Write what you know” to heart and never strayed from the familiar path of my own self-knowledge and life experiences. But Molly’s story is different. It’s an adventure. It required research. It made me work. I could not breeze through the writing of this story. Restoring Harmony demanded my full attention and dedication. And I’m talking about before it ever sold. In the end, forcing myself to work that hard paid off, but not just because it will be published…because it made me realize what I am capable of. It’s too early to know if anyone else will like this book, but at least I know that I took a chance and I’m a better writer than I was before because of it.
Julia Cameron says, “Leap and the net will appear.”
I couldn’t agree more. You can’t be afraid to fall or you’ll never know where you might land.