NOTE: I wrote this a couple weeks ago, but am just now getting around to posting it.
I am 42 today. I woke without remembering this fact and had just about decided to slip out of bed without waking Dave when he whispered, “Happy Birthday, hon.” Since then I’ve been reminded of it often, since my children came up with the idea of singing “Happy Birthday” to me 42 times. They’re up to 12 by now, but I’m hoping they run out of steam.
I don’t mind the 40s, don’t mind getting older, but my birthday has reminded me of my “to be accomplished by 40” list. Actually, it was first a “by 30” list, but when it didn’t happen then, I just moved it, first to 35, then to 40.
The list only has one item:
Get a book accepted by a publisher.
It didn’t happen by 40, still hasn’t, but I’ve decided against a “by 45” list.
It’s not that I’ve given up. I’m still writing, still working on book proposals, still sending them out to be rejected and returned.
And, boy, am I still learning.
Still learning to write, more and more with every year, every assignment, every blog posting, every review one of my editor friends so graciously gives me—for free!
But I’m also learning about patience and faith. I’m learning about humility and peeling fingers off of brittle dreams and opening arms to the unknown.
It’s been an interesting journey.
About nine years ago, just before I learned I was pregnant with the twins, I decided my research/submit/rejection system wasn’t working, so I took a correspondence writing course. It started with baby steps: “Write an announcement for your church bulletin” and “Draft a help wanted ad.”
Two months in, it seemed to have barely moved forward. “Seek out opportunities to write for your church’s newsletter or for any small, local papers.”
“That isn’t the kind of writing I want to do,” I thought. “I want to write children’s and young adult stories. I want to write books.” I didn’t take the followup course, and the next spring I began attending a local writing class, where I shared the progression of my young adult novel, five pages a week.
Several from that class became good friends, and most of these have had some writing success. One has found a niche in genre literary journals; another works as a corporate freelance writer and is currently shopping around a novel; and the leader of the group is one of those professional editing friends who gives me the phenomenal advice I mentioned earlier.
But my journey has been more roundabout, as if God had some extra lessons for me that had nothing to do with the ability to write sizzling dialogue or attention-grabbing introductions.
In hindsight I can see His wonderful irony. For instance, my first “published” piece in those years was—aha!—a piece in our church’s newsletter. The second was the same. Then we moved to Sterling, Kansas, primarily for Dave to coach the men’s soccer team at the college there but also so I could have more time to write, to finish the young adult novel and shop it around.
But I “fell” into a job almost right away, writing and editing copy for the college’s marketing department. I wrote brochures and letters, and worked my way into tracking down news releases, doing interviews, writing news stories for small-town newspapers, and, eventually, creating pretty much all the articles for the college’s alumni magazine.
It was exactly the kind of writing I had not been interested in a few years before.
But I learned so much! And I enjoyed it. In a tiny town in the middle of Kansas, I learned to value the “small stories” that, looked at with perspective, fit together into God’s BIG story.
And I began to value the “little” writing assignments I was getting to do as well.
Still, when Dave suggested that I write the story of Patrick’s adoption, I resisted—for lots of reasons, but in part because it’s just “one” adoption. I’ve met families who have adopted two, three, four children, others who took in kids with special needs. I’ve read about and known people who pursued orphans with a passion that makes mine look puny.
I’m writing it, though. I think I’m supposed to.
But I’m letting go of the dream of getting it published. Because maybe that’s not supposed to happen. Or maybe I’m supposed to swallow my pride and self-publish it.
Maybe this book—and every other bit of writing I do—isn’t supposed to be about me at all.
That, I think, is the biggest lesson of all.