Friday, February 8, 2013

Starting Over Again, For the First Time

The relief I felt leaving the country was palpable, except for the last moments before the plane left Miami, when I scrambled to reconfigure my cell phone contract so I wouldn’t be paying for a service I wouldn’t be using.

There are a lot of small pieces that go into moving abroad for any length of time: setting up bills, notifying banks of the exotic places you’ll be spending money in; telling your friends you’ll be gone. All of these things are part of my repertoire; I have done them enough, packed my bag enough, left and come back enough that it is no longer a surprise to my family and friends.

This time, however, it was a surprise to me. I thought a lot about leaving before I left, and although I’ve done this before, this time it feels different; more final; like more is at stake.

It could be because I am older now; because I have an idea of something I want to accomplish abroad this time; because I have said out loud, “If I like it there, I’m not sure I’ll come back.” It seems different, and yet I am unsure, in retrospect, if it has always seemed different when I start my cycle over from the beginning. Perhaps it seems different this time, because I’m here, now, and I’ve forgotten what it was like then.

Nevertheless, here I am. I want to write a book. I have wanted to write a book before. I have realized that I need more time and space than I get when I’m at home and fully employed to do so. I have had this realization before. I have decided to step off a cliff into nothing, and have faith that it will work out the way it’s supposed to.

I’ve stepped off similar cliffs before, and it has worked out better than I could have imagined.

Four years ago, I quit a sales job in Bellevue with a dream to try to make a living as a writer. At that point, I had enough saved up to write, research and try to get published, as long as I could do it within a year. I remember my dad saying something to me about maybe needing to make it more like five years, and the idea of spending that long struck fear deep into my heart.

I did not get published within a year, but in four years, I have self-published two recipe books, and started my own publishing company to do so. I have gained confidence, skills and knowledge in writing, marketing, sales and publishing. I have also learned the hard way that writing is a tough business, that retail sales are dependent on many factors outside of my control, and that if you try to make everyone else happy, you will end up poor and wondering why all your time is being poured into something that is not giving back. 

Despite all the hard lessons, however, I have learned one really important one: that all goals are accomplished by setting one foot in front of the other, and that I will never know if I’m going to make it if I don’t believe in myself enough to try.

So here I am. I am starting over again, but from a rung higher up the ladder. At the very least, I know what I’m getting into this time. I know how tough it is to sit down and write a book, and yet it is still what I want: not a cookbook, but something substantial, something that readers can sink their teeth into; that I would not be ashamed to laugh or cry out loud about reading in an airplane, simply because I could not put it down.

The cookbooks were an important step in the right direction, and yet there is something deeper that has been begging to be let loose for a long time. I read something recently about the 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning, about how people who believe they have a purpose in life are willing to put up with a lot more than those that are simply pursuing happiness. I had never really thought about it in those terms, but I have realized that somewhere in my writing is my purpose. There is something in my writing that makes my life worthwhile; it is the gift I get to enjoy every day, and the one I can give to others. I have endured much on behalf of my writing, and I would say that, regardless of what becomes of what I write, there is nothing else I would rather do every day than craft my thoughts into words.

Recently, someone asked me if I had thought about going back to school. I told him that I had thought about it a lot, but that it would ultimately be putting off what was inevitable: the need to spend my time doing what I feel compelled to do. A business degree will not help that, nor will a job working for someone else to make ends meet. He said, “Well, it seems like you need to get this book out of your system, first.” Perhaps, but what seems more likely is that there is a mountain of writing within me; that once I find an audience, a stage and a paycheck that can attach to what I have to say, there will be no limit to how much I have to give.   

Love and writing kisses,