starting over as an author-entrepreneur at 40
I turned forty two weeks ago. My birthday itself was a pleasant occasion and I celebrated it with my husband and four-year-old and cake. Wishes poured in from family overseas, and I remember feeling loved and content in the moment.
But in the weeks leading up to my birthday, I was a mess. Perhaps, it is merely a notion implanted into my head by pop culture, but there was something about turning 40 that made me confront the relentless, brutal passage of time.
I didn't dream of writing books when I was in the womb nor did I pen my first story before I had turned five or ten years old or whatever the latest yardstick for precociousness is nor did I know even before I had taken my first step that I wanted to be an author. Heck! Even now I am not always certain if I should be on this path in the first place.
But for the past fifteen years or so, I have occasionally dreamed of writing a novel, the way most people dream of travelling the world for a year or of starting an entrepreneurial venture or of moving to Amsterdam. It was more wishful thinking, doomed to never be fulfilled, than a passionate dream to be pursued and realised at all costs. A longing, fated to remain tragically unfulfilled. Like unrequited love. Yet another could-have-been. The heavy melancholy of non-achievement seemingly more poignant and meaningful than the buoyant cheer of manifestation.
What a load of balderdash!
This line of thinking kept me from attempting much at all. It saw me start several projects only to abandon them within a few weeks or months after the initial enthusiasm had run out.
I even embarked upon what Steven Pressfield calls a 'shadow career' (one that is really close to your calling but isn't quite it) as I moved into content writing and journalism and stayed the course for 7 years.
Despite all my meanderings, I somehow managed to write and self-publish my debut novella, In Search of Leo, in the speculative fiction genre in January 2018. It is a story of the gamut of emotions that love and grief can stir. I began to write that story shortly after my little one arrived and published it when he was a year and a half old, a feat I still cannot believe I managed to pull off. As if to compensate for that achievement, I put up the story on Amazon only as an ebook (Kindle edition), posted about its release once on my Facebook page, and promptly abandoned it, not mentioning it anywhere else online or in real life, afraid to pester family and friends to purchase a copy or leave a review. My editor left an incredibly touching review of the book on her website, but I told myself she was just being nice. Imposter syndrome, you know?
And because I must be a closet masochist, I have been working on a novel for the past two years now. It is not a pipe dream because as of the date of publishing this post, I have written about 96,780 words, the most ever I have written in a single piece of work. I have also written 4 short stories, and embarked on a daily poetry experiment, twice, which yielded some gems but obviously didn't take place daily on both occasions.
I wish I had written more. More in terms of volume as well as consistency.
The truth is I have completely underestimated the time and effort - physical, mental, and emotional - it requires to produce a good body of work while juggling my freelance editing gig (which brings in some revenues every month) with being a stay-at-home mom.
I have come to the painful realisation that my writing is easily affected by all the other things going on in my life.
Writing becomes incredibly painful on days when I've spent a few hours editing an especially difficult piece. Or when my little one has had a particularly difficult day and I've spent intense mental and emotional effort in keeping my own fears and anxieties in check while providing him a safe space to express and experience his feelings. Or when I receive disturbing news from ageing parents overseas. My own body refuses to work the way it could years ago. A herniated disc, knee pain, constant headaches, even a single night of fitful sleep can easily throw me off balance. And before I know it, several days have passed without a word written, which sends down me a never-ending spiral of regret and frustration.
And when I haul myself back to writing again, it is like a salve. A magic balm that can cure all wounds, soothe all scars, and help me sleep well at night.
And yet, there is so much resistance to get to the desk, to open the WIP, and to start typing the words.
I have tried several different techniques these past few months ever since my little one, now four years old, ventured into the world of kindergarten this fall. I have failed more often than succeeded, and by 'success' I mean I've either learnt something about myself and what works for me or I've found and eliminated one more process/technique/habit that hinders me.
As I set out on this journey of being an author-entrepreneur, my first goal is to create a consistent writing habit, one that aligns with my own vision (which I have yet to define), my strengths, and the conditions of my life. In 2021, I want to finish writing my WIP novel and self-publish it wide along with a bunch of other works that I've written over the years, either online or on scraps of paper all tucked inside my table drawer. And on this blog, I intend to capture my journey in the hopes that some day it will inspire you to start yours, even if you feel you are fifteen years too late.
Attribution: Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash