I’m celebrating a milestone birthday as I round another decade’s corner. Though my friends will joke about my age, I don’t feel all that old. No need for black balloons and crying that I’ve topped the middle-aged hill; I actually feel like celebrating! I’m excited by the possibilities. Each decade in our lives is like embarking on a new season. Some have more meaning and significance than others, but all are milestones.
When I reflect on my life I can mark those milestones by the seasons in my development as a writer, too. My early writing years felt as if I were in a holding pattern. I lived to “write someday.” Eventually (thankfully) I moved into a season of writing and reading excessively and taking as many classes and workshops as possible. Next I simply wrote and submitted like mad and, once I’d garnered a dozen writing credits, I began my “reading-study” season again. I read about craft and studied how the pros accomplished their craft. I dissected published stories and articles to learn how the pieces fit together.
Finally, I began teaching. I realized that when I explained what I had learned about craft, it validated for me all I knew and had acquired about this writing business. That gave me confidence. It also forced me to look at my writing from a different angle, especially when students asked questions and I had to figure out how to express the answer. I believe it was during this season in my writing that my talent/craft soared. Things clicked and flower buds of productivity burst into bloom. This was also the season that I most enjoyed my writing because the work of it no longer took so much effort but instead brought joy – it felt free and easy.
Eventually I entered a reflective season. I closed myself off from the demands of sharing what I had learned and focused instead on doing, on producing. I was incredibly productive during this season, but I also felt the loneliness I had often heard other writers expressing (but had not understood as I do now). That loneliness drove me to seek something in my career and I ended up looking within, reflecting on life and craft and career. My writing deepened like the shades of green during Michigan summers and Florida winters. During this time my fiction improved because personal reflection helped me develop more rounded characters as well as the twists and turns that create engaging plot lines.
The next season was one in which I became focused on balancing a variety of teaching and writing. Long ago a Newbery medalist coached me and told me that I could take two paths in my writing career—focus and rise like a rocket, or scatter and spread my interests and climb slowly like a mere jet. I chose the latter only because variety is essential in my life. I became a freelance writer because I love language but also because I have a need to learn and share what I’ve learned with others. (“Teaching one reader at a time” has long been my motto.) I wanted a career in which I could thrive on a variety of projects and I often work on three books at various stages, plus a half-dozen shorter works, all at the same time. So, in this season I learned to better balance all the these demands plus those from family, friends, and so on. Life-coaching helped tremendously in this regard.
I recently embarked on a new season. In this season I am exploring creativity. How does it work? Why do I thrive on varied projects? What is it that I actually do when I get into that lovely flow of writing? Perhaps this is why I don’t mind having those decades behind me. The next is filled with exploring and creating. That’s exciting!
What about you? Have you ever thought about the seasons of your life? Where are you at as a writer and where do see yourself heading? Wherever it is, I wish you happy writing!