Don’t let an opportunity fool you by its lack of curb appeal.
But then you know how that frog ended up becoming a prince? Opportunities can do that, too. Sometimes, though, opportunities just don’t look like opportunities. They look like tragedy. Or failure. Or rejection.
Here’s an example. After the publication of my second book, I lost the ability to write. Never in my life would I have thought this could happen to me. I loved writing. I loved reading. I loved books. My whole identity centered on me as a writer. It was what I did. Every single morning. Sometimes, a story would wake me up at three a.m., and I would get up and start writing. And I loved it.
But something happened when I wrote my second book under contract. Maybe I felt like I didn’t have enough time with it; I don’t really know. But it changed what writing was for me. The joy was gone.
It was as if a big vault door had slammed shut on the creative center of me, and all I felt at the thought of sitting down in front of my computer was dread. A really awful kind of dread.
The decision to walk away from my writing did not happen overnight. It happened over some pretty awful months during which I had no idea what I was going to do without it. It sounds like a cliché, but it really was like accepting the death of a part of me.
Not that I really had a choice. When something is gone, it’s gone.
Other writers told me that it would come back if I left it alone. I have to say I didn’t believe them. The well was just empty.
And so for two years, I lived the life of a person who doesn’t write. I did other things. Looked behind other doors. And found some things that I really love. Things I don’t think I would have found had I still been writing. I bought a horse and started taking dressage lessons. Met a whole new world of people who I found interesting and fascinating.
My husband and I bought a farm on a lake we love and built a barn and then a house. I became happy again. Doing things I’d never done before.
And then suddenly, one day, a character popped into my head. Full blown, like someone I knew. A story started to blossom around the character. I left it alone for a while, thinking it would go away. But it didn’t.
One morning, I sat down at the computer and just started writing. Simply for the joy of it. Just like I did before I was ever published. I wrote the book for myself, not caring if anyone else ever read it.
John Riley’s Girl went on to be published, and it won the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award. The award is one that has been won by writers whose work I have loved and admired. The fact that this particular book won that award meant the world to me.
So that horrible burnout I went through as a writer is something I wouldn’t change even if I could go back and do so. I know I am a different person today because of it. I know that I grew during those two years in ways I wouldn’t have had that not happened to me.
We don’t always get to choose our opportunities. Sometimes, they choose us. We just have to be willing to recognize them. Chin warts and all.