For some of us, life is a series of “next steps”: new career, new job, new hobby, new challenges, maybe even a new family member in the form of a spouse, child, or grandchild.
For others of us, life sometimes becomes a series of backward steps. Lately, I’ve been stepping backward a lot. I’ve stepped backward to a quieter pre-children household, now that my kids are grown and have moved away (two of them to opposite sides of the country!).
I’ve stepped back to the idea of returning to a former career. I’ve stepped back to a simpler, less-cluttered life—through the donation and selling of unneeded belongings.
And now I’m trying to step back and once again find my identity as a writer. For many years, I felt unworthy of claiming that title, but as my work began to be published, I finally embraced it. Then I relished in it. Then I let it slip away.
I’ve done a lot of copywriting and a whole lot of corporate editing over the past several years. I compiled a few anthologies, created a book of meditations, even coauthored five regional histories. But my opportunity cost was the simple indulgence of writing creatively for pleasure. So when the last few history books were released and I did a few interviews and signings, I was asked more than once: “Have you ever considered writing anything else?”
Yes, I have. And yes, I did.
It isn’t easy, this giant step backward to who I once was. I started a short fiction piece last fall and tweaked it for months, afraid to put it out there. What if nobody likes it? What if it’s really awful and gets rejected a hundred times? What if I just can’t write anymore?
I spent six months on that story before finally picking my market and sending it off. In my defense (because you know I have to insert some excuses here), I was also dealing with a ridiculous amount of work deadlines during that time.
After six weeks—during which I ignored the advice of other freelancers to start something new while waiting, so sure was I that I had lost the knack and that the magazine’s editors were rolling on the floor of their offices having a good laugh at the absurdity of my submission—I received word that a contract was on the way.
It’s almost like getting published for the first time all over again, sixteen years later.
Will I be able to keep the deadlines at bay and once again embrace my writer identity? I’m not betting myself any money. Sometimes it’s all about baby steps. But hopefully, they will be baby steps forward.