One year ago, I had a three-book contract with a local publisher, rewrites to do before the book launch scheduled for October, a book tour to plan, and money in the bank. My dream was coming true. So I retired from the corporate world.
Suddenly, there was no alarm clock to jar me awake every morning before dawn, no traffic to deal with, no lost time commuting, and no one making demands of my time or energy.
However, all has not gone as planned. Just as I completed the rewrites and were in discussions on book cover designs and where to have launches, the publisher went out of business. My world shattered.
After receiving that news, I was up again before dawn, crying, worrying and praying. Had I done the right thing? How could I have been so stupid? Then I played what if with myself: What if Rob or I had a serious accident or illness? What if we lost everything in a house fire? What if the economy went into a depression and we lost all our savings?
And no one ever tells you about the loneliness. One day, after I completed a chapter, I turned around to ask a co-worker about lunch – but there was no one there. Just me, my spouse, and the dogs.
I spoke with a friend of mine who advised it took at least six months to get used to the lifestyle change. And she confirmed that it was a lifestyle change, not something I had done to myself. So I gave myself six months to see if I felt any different.
Beaming with new-found confidence, I sent the manuscript off to a couple of publishers that had expressed interest in the novel. I also applied to job sites and employment placement agencies—just in case.
Six months passed, and several agencies advised that my skill set, experience, and maturity were not major influences in the current work environment. Should I chose to go back to school and beef up my computer skills in at least five different software programs, I might be able to get an entry-level position in downtown Atlanta or Alpharetta. For $15 an hour. And a 2-hour commute each way. And I would be in direct competition with kids fresh out of college.
On top of that, from November through April, it rained nearly every day, which did nothing to appease my fears and worry. And I still haven’t heard back from either of the publishing houses.
With no real purpose, and nothing to do during those rainy days, Rob and I also fell into a routine of watching TV while I crocheted all day or going to doctor appointments.
And I ate heartily of the evening meals my husband prepared, eventually gaining over fifteen pounds.
As the days, weeks, and months passed, I worried and pondered and thought even more.
Do I go speak with a guidance counselor about going back to college to earn another degree and debt so I can work until I’m seventy five to pay it off?
Do I speak with a counselor about how best to deal with the loneliness and depression?
Do I get a mentor to assist in focusing on producing other novels in my head? But several of my writer friends have told me over and over that books are not selling.
My daughter suggested I volunteer at a local charity. If I volunteered at the Humane Society, I know I would be heartbroken over every stray and bring them home, which would be detrimental, not only to the animals, but to my bank account, as well as mine and my husband’s sanity.
Volunteer at a children’s hospital? I wouldn’t be able to hide my tears and fears from the patients, which would depress the poor kids even more.
And there’s still the question of what do I do about the lack of income?
People have suggested I become an entrepreneur and sell products or life insurance or real estate. Don’t make me laugh. I couldn’t sell heaters to Alaskans in the middle of winter.
So what is a poor, old woman to do?
Until I find my real purpose, I spend my time reading an awful lot of books in several different genres.
I teach myself new crochet stitches and incorporate them into scarfs and afghans for Christmas presents.
I continue meeting with my writing and critique groups.
I started a weight-loss program, then signed up for Pilates classes, became a member of the aquatic club, and take the dogs on five-mile walks a couple of times a week.
With my exercise and new eating regime, I have lost ten of those 15 pounds.
I write articles for a local magazine, which pays fairly well, but is not sustaining.
I wrote several personal essays that my writing instructor suggested I send to publications. One of my essays was on my passion for Turner Classic Movies. I took a chance and sent it to the TCM Backlot Atlanta chapter president, who published “The Golden Age of Hollywood” on their website.
While I await feedback from the publishing houses, I keep in touch with my editor who is mentoring me on completing the other novels in my head.
And I’m waiting for my next assignment from the magazine publisher.
I still get up some mornings before dawn and cry, worry, and pray but I know God has something better planned for me.
Just in His own time.