Midlife crisis and a leap of faith
In September 2012, I was struck down with pneumonia. Not dangerous enough to require hospitalisation, no, although I definitely felt I was in danger of losing my lungs on coughing occasions; but while buried under the blankets I sadly realised that I would rather remain bed bound forever than return to work. Which was illogical. The company is my own, my colleagues are fantastic, my client accounts are fun products and copywriting is my forte. I even choose my own hours. Yet dragging my ass to my desk seemed as terrifying as undertaking a thirsty trek across a hot desert. I’d rather dance on quicksand. Because every fibre was screaming I don’t want to do this any more.
I had it all – healthy family, good home and decent career – with no grounds whatsoever to feel blue. All my main life boxes were neatly ticked off, but now the future stretched ahead like a straight road to nowhere paved in same old, same old, while all my old hopes, dreams and excitement were clearly visible in the rear-view mirror.
The debilitating power of a midlife crisis is sometimes underestimated, particularly by the unsuspecting sufferer. Life had continued around me, while something within me had slowly died.
Until a few months later when I stumbled upon a quote by American journalist, Erma Bombeck:
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.”
My response was spontaneous and instantaneous.
Hell no! I still have a book to write! I know I do. THAT’s what I’m supposed to be doing.
Books and biographies. Blogs and poetry. The possibilities were endless. I’d always claimed I would write a book one day, and suddenly it was now or never, and never was suddenly unthinkable. The time had come to dedicate the lion’s share of my day to writing the novel that was rattling my caged doors.
Having swiftly secured the unanimous support from my close family and friends, it was all systems go.
I signed up for a creative fiction writing course and downloaded software designed for novel writing. I purchased notepads and pens. Read books offering advice on arcs and storyline development. Polished my Mac. Set up this blog and… procrastinated to my heart’s content.
Because what if, what if and what if? What if I were about to find out that I couldn’t write after all. Or at least not fiction. What if I turned out to be one of those poor ridiculous souls who audition for song competitions on national TV – entirely convinced that they are the next Beyoncé because everyone said they could sing – only to find themselves used as ear-grating entertainment bait in the trailers? For 20 years I’ve enjoyed the compliments of happy clients who appreciate my texts, but that was kick ass commercial copywriting or copy translating. An industry I know well. Feel comfortable in. Understand. Where I can pick and choose which companies and products I want to work with.
What did I know about the publishing industry? Nada. This was way beyond the realms of my comfort zone. So I packed my insecurities and set off for the Göteborg Book Fair to meet authors, talk to publishers and find out more. Then returned with a case full of books and a hunger to be part of their world. I felt alive and exhilarated.
So here I am. Having the professional time of my life working with a few choice copywriting/copy translating clients while blogging and building up a readership that will hopefully be willing to look twice at the book that currently consumes my days and disturbs my nights. I’m knee-deep in research notes and ideas, characters who are taking on lives and badass attitudes of their own while I find myself wondering ‘What could Lovisa be doing now?’ as I bring her story to life.
I still have no idea whether my book will be favourably received. This entire sideways career move is a huge leap of faith; Faith that my friends are telling me the truth, faith in my ability to write fiction, and faith in a bright future that has reignited my love of language across the board.
And this is what I’ve learned:
When you’ve ticked off all your boxes, you need to find something new to feel personally passionate about. It’s not about letting go of your past; it’s about embracing your future. Be prepared to take a risk and a leap of faith.
American novelist, Ray Bradbury, said:
“Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.”
I reckon I’m learning to fly in a whole new direction.