Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Thrilling, Frightening New Path

Some time ago, I ran across a quote by Lao-tzu that hit me like a ton of bricks. "At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want." I immediately e-mailed it to several friends. My wise friend Wendy wrote back and asked, "What's the answer?" Without hesitation, I responded, "I must write."

This statement needs clarification. I've been a writer my entire life, starting as a journalist and then serving as a writer/editor for national and international nonprofits for 20 years. In October 2008, something shifted. I have enjoyed most of my career, but it has left me exhausted and burned out. I rarely had time for personal (non work-related) writing — and most attempts were prompted by profound life experiences such as a family member’s death or some insight gained in therapy.

In October 2008, that changed. One morning, I woke up and began creative writing again, words spilling out almost beyond my control. I couldn’t type fast enough. It was almost as if I were taking dictation from a belligerent muse.

Having never attempted a novel-length work, I started two pieces of fiction at the same time. I also began writing personal essays and pitching magazine articles to editors again. What the heck was going on?

Next, I started putting "intentions" out to the universe (in the form of Post-It notes on my bulletin board): Attend a writer's retreat. Finish the novel by Dec. 31, 2009. Start or join a local writers' group. Get accepted to Hedgebrook 2010. Write for fun. Writing is a calling, not a hobby.

A year later, I've made some serious steps toward living a writer's life.
  • I negotiated a part-time job with my employer so I can write more.
  • I attended a writers' retreat for women sponsored by A Room of Her Own Foundation. (Check this out -- it will change your life!)
  • I applied for a one-month writer's residency in 2010 at Hedgebrook (selections take place in December).
  • I formed a local writers' group where four amazing women meet twice monthly to critique each other's novels in progress.
  • I write for fun!
  • I was so inspired by short story writer Pamela Painter that I am writing some flash fiction and LOVE IT.
  • I just had my first piece of fiction accepted by a literary journal (Wilderness House Literary Review).
  • I am completing The Artist's Way (by Julia Cameron) with a good friend (we keep each other honest about morning pages and artist's dates).
This new path is thrilling and frightening. I spent 22 years at full-time jobs with deadlines from co-workers, clients or bosses. My work was externally driven. I was a hard worker! I produced results! I punched a time clock!

Now, I am faced with a blank slate the days I'm not working at my "day job." I am accountable only to myself. I must find a way to structure my days with writing, revising, researching, blogging, reading good writing, sending out my work. I must find a way to ignore the calls of dirty laundry, unmade beds or unwashed dishes.

Thanks, La0-tzu, for helping me clarify my path. I'll stumble along the way, and make a few wrong turns (or detours), but it's bound to be more fun that way. Hope you'll join me for part of the journey.


  1. Bravo, Mandy!! I had no idea you were starting a new blog, but I already love it just after reading this first entry!! You are a courageous soul to be following your dreams with such passion... and an inspiration to many, I'm certain. I love how the Universe is answering so many of your requests :)

  2. Wow! I can't wait to see where you go with your Life on the High Wire.

  3. Way to go, Mandy. I'm proud of you!