Why did it take me fourteen years to write and publish When Horses Had Wings? In my earlier blog post, I promised to answer that question.
I hope you’ll return to read this full story, as I’ll be posting my response in small segments. Along the way, I’ll reveal which famous author I reached out to—and what he did to encourage me at a time when I doubted myself and my maker.
Previously, I confessed to hearing voices. Well, actually, it was just one voice that spoke to me long before I ever wrote the opening sentence of When Horses Had Wings. After hearing that command, I took an action that most novice writers are cautioned to avoid.
I quit my job.
No, I didn’t leave some detested form of underemployment. In 1992, I gave up approximately $50,000 in annual salary, a management title, and several professional licenses I’d worked hard to achieve. With flair, I announced I was going to write a book.
Perhaps others snickered, maybe even guffawed, behind my back when I admitted my intentions. My coworkers should have advised me to reconsider. Aside from losing half my household income, another significant problem awaited; I had no plan for how I would accomplish my goal.
Though I’d produced many technical reports and board presentations, none of those experiences had prepared me to land an agent or write a novel. In terms of a platform, I had only the floor I was then standing upon—and it was fully mortgaged.
Two years into a new marriage, I had three children in school and one in college. This was not the time to take major risks. Yet when would be the right moment? Hadn’t The Voice scolded me for not pursuing what I was supposed to be doing now?
When I confessed to a woman who holds an M.F.A. from Iowa Writers’ Workshop that I’d left my employer, she casually remarked, “It takes ten years for a writer to develop into a good novelist.”
I had less than ten months’ savings.
Clearly, I would need to become a speed learner.
Immediately, I laid out a roadmap for my new career. I would commence writing my novel and use my nonfiction skills for freelance opportunities: magazine articles, newspaper columns, corporate reports, and advertorial pieces. I’d write whatever I could, to generate income while I worked on my novel. Maybe I’d become a syndicated columnist. How could there be a limit to my success? The Universe was on my side. Right?
From local universities, I purchased several journalism books. Then I scanned through my private journals, in search of interesting topics. The best year of my life was about to begin. I’d be home with my children, available to my family, and working toward a purpose I’d been destined to fulfill since childhood. I feared my heart might explode from too much elation. But then, a few months later, I received disheartening news.
My husband announced he’d been laid off.
If this was how The Universe planned to support me, I had no confidence in my future. Maybe it had all been a silly dream, nothing remotely realistic. Maybe I’d made the worst decision of my adult life, and now I’d have to face severe consequences. I was distraught and ashamed of my impulsive choices.
A few days later, by chance, I happened across a book that must have been meant for me to find. In my next post, I’ll reveal the title of that book and disclose its author. His name is synonymous with “success!”