A few years ago, when I was a stay-home-mom-who-freelanced (I was never sure which of the jobs was more demanding, so I packaged them as one descriptive job), I was standing in the kitchen, drying glasses, watching Oprah. There was a motivational guest on (I can’t remember who specifically) who told everyone to imagine, for a second, what they would be if they could be anything.
My dishtowel hardly missed a swipe. “I’d be a novelist,” I said, in the general direction of the TV set, putting the glass away into the cupboard.
I grabbed the next dish as Oprah left a dramatic pause. And then she said, “So why aren’t you?”
My dishtowel halted. My hands went to my side. I turned toward the TV and stared. I stared at Oprah. I stared at the audience members. The camera panned and caught similarly stunned expressions from everyone.
So why aren’t you?
It sounds sort of silly that a television show – and only one line out of it, at that – could change your life, but that show did. That line did. Because I wondered, then, so why aren’t I?
Granted, I started out with a lot of reasons. As every self-respecting English major does, I had the proverbial Great American Novel started and unfinished in my underwear drawer. I started it right out of college. But then life got in the way and I created a series of excuses: I was just getting out of college. I was starting a “real” career. I was starting a family. I had little ones to raise. I was already working too many hours at the newspaper. I was already writing for a living. I was too busy. …
But that day, while drying the glasses, all the reasons seemed to disappear. Suddenly the idea of writing novels didn’t sound crazy. I now had the time. I had the education. I had the familiarity with the publishing industry. I knew editors. My kids were older, and were leaving me pockets of time to work. I had already become the best mom I knew how to be. Suddenly I didn’t know why I wasn’t working to become the one other thing I would still be if I could be anything. …
So that day I began. I went to the book store and bought a few books on how it was done, and thus began my long (and still ongoing) education to do the very thing I always dreamed of doing – write novels. I decided on romance novels specifically. And I’m three years in, and as determined as ever. I have other work, too – there’s the “real” job (the one that pays the bills), and I like that job, too – but on my lunch hour, and on weekends, and late at night on the weeknights, I sit at my keyboard and pound out my books.
I’ve written three so far, each 100,000 words, and all in the editing stages. But I’m loving every minute of it. Even if I never got paid a penny, I’d always know that I got to spend some time being what I always wanted to be. I’ve met a wonderful writing community and have been able to surround myself with amazing new writer friends, and it already feels like my dream has come true. I’m willing to put in the work and pay my dues to become a pro novelist, but no more putting dreams aside. What would I be waiting for?
So how about you: What would you be if you could be anything? Can you start now? Have you heard of others starting their dreams late in life?