Being good at something doesn’t mean you should do it. I wanted to be a writer from a young age, and there were early indications I wasn’t terrible at it. But it was also clear I was fiercely competitive and desirous of showing the male dominated business arena that they weren’t the only game in town.
It was my father who helped me parse these two passions. Looking back, it’s as if he saw how my life would unfold with great clarity, which I wouldn’t put past him. He was a big picture guy. He said, “Wait and write once you’ve gotten the need for approval out of your system. And maybe saved some money.”
He was right. In my twenties I was a stack-ranker and the only cure for that particular character flaw is exhaustion. It’s tiring to need to be on top. It took me a decade to burn out. When I finally walked away from high tech, it was with the words of the late Mary Ann Evans (who many of you know as George Eliot because that’s what it took to be taken seriously in the 1800s) in mind: It is never too late to be what you might have been.
I remain a goal-oriented person. A portion of my self-worth is attached to an objective of some sort at all times. I know there are people who find the idea of that daunting. Some would go so far as to label it a problem. These are likely the same people I find a bit lackadaisical, which is what makes human nature fascinating: personalities drive behavior, and even though we know that, we still privately judge, hopefully from a place of love. But fear not my Zen friends! Goals aren’t stressful or toxic for me. They’re fuel. They’re hydration. They’re the one thing powerful enough to conquer my newfound social media addiction.
Goals are often tied to the great human equalizer we call time. I’ve never checked an author’s age before picking up a book, and every time I see a tweet announcing an Authors Under X or Over Y List I scratch my head at the random spotlight. It’d make as much sense to divide authors by area code. Your work gets out when it’s ready. So when I set a goal for my writing it was arbitrary, designed to keep me focused more than anything else. I resigned in 2012, draft in hand, and gave myself two and a half years to be published. My 35th birthday became the goal.
I knew the book needed work, and I needed to find the right agent. I didn’t know in 2014 I’d almost die from two pulmonary embolisms and be diagnosed with a blood disease that’d rob me of eight months for recovery and force me to stand once an hour for the rest of my life. While I understood the pressing reality of my health trumped all, hitting the pause button on my cherished goals left me deflated. I didn’t enjoy counting survival among my annual achievements at the ripe age of thirty-four, though I very much preferred it to the alternative.
When 2015 arrived, I had my energy back. There were six months left on the clock, and though I knew it wasn’t feasible to get a book on the shelf, my Type A personality was motivated to have something of substance happen before I officially hit my mid-thirties. I sent what would be the final rewrite of I LIKED MY LIFE in February. The auction was in early March. By June 23rd, when I turned 35, I had a contract in hand. It won’t be published until I’m 36 and a half, but close enough, right?
YES! my Zen friends assure me.
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