Taking a big leap
I took my big leap in March 2021. I jotted down the first notes for a bisexual homicide detective who had been pushing hard at the limits of my headspace. It was an unforgettable moment. Why a bi detective in the Seattle Police Department? Bisexuality is largely underrepresented, and in cultural society there are few positive roles. Often, a character who identifies as – or is “shown” to be – bisexual is typically shrouded in maniacal mystery, seeking sex-ravaged romps, or, at worst, cast as disturbed serial killers. I mean, if you’re a serial killer, it makes immoral sense that you’re also bisexual, right?
I’m a gay man but realise I’m clueless about what bi people experience or face in a binary world where black or white, up or down, this or that – male or female, gay or straight – dominates the discourse. I set out to find out more. Since my protagonist is a bi male, I limited my interviews to bi men from the US to the UK. Each was very generous with their time, sharing intimate portrayals of their lives, thoughts, fears, joys, and anxieties.
From there, the framework for plot and story took shape, and before long, I was immersed in months of other research from Seattle history to the intricacies of the city’s police department to taking a firearms class. The latter was definitely creepy, but I needed to know what it felt like to hold and fire a gun. I wasn’t crafting a bobby in England.
From accounting to writing
I’m not new to writing and have penned articles, columns and books in different genres. But my creative expression always took a back seat to a very different career. Accounting. Makes me yawn just typing the letters. Rather than commit to my talent – and happiness – I became devoted to the comforts afforded me by a steady, well-salaried job. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I was good in the field and it served me well. Just four months after giving myself permission to pay attention to my protagonist, that was it. I didn’t wake up planning to leave that career on that day, but I had so clearly reached the end of a long and dusty road.
Here’s how I know it was the right decision.
I poured myself into learning the craft of writing fiction. Taking classes, joining groups, talking with authors, reading even more books. And writing, writing, writing. I rarely tired and never looked back. I was in the zone, a space I rarely experienced in a-c-c-o-u-n-t-i-n-g. OMG – I need a nap.
Joy is unmistakable
When the creative flow in me wants to be unleashed, it finds a way out even if it’s years in the making. Finding the right word, turning the phrase, adding a twist to character or plot fills me with excitement and intrigue.
After many years ignoring a creative life, I have a level of commitment that carries me through every day. I spend time building a creative community, surrounding myself with successful authors – or editors or agents – and am not afraid to reach out. I used to feel like I was a burden to successful creative people. No longer. I may be at the beginning of this mysterious new journey, but I want to learn from those who’ve gone before me and share what I’ve learned along the path.
The biggest reason I know the decision to leave a steady career was right? I have solid plans. My debut is in the hands of a developmental editor. At the ready are synopses, pitches, loglines and queries. Agents and publishers who I feel are a good fit have been identified for submission. Notes for the second book in the series have already leapt onto the page, and I imagine the opening scenes for books down the line. I love expanding my platform.
I feel worthy
The most important piece of this entire puzzle is that I finally feel worthy of a second career as a traditionally published author. I envision the success and acknowledge how my soul dances when I’m writing or plotting or letting my mind drift in creative thought.
Am I afraid of taking such a big leap? Sometimes. An invigorated soul has its off days after all. When I give one too many minutes to the idea that material comforts can only be the fruits of a right-brained career. When I think I’m too old to start a new journey. When, on those frustrating days where no words come, I tell myself I’m in over my head. Frankly, it’s when I reach these upper limit problems that I’m able to say out loud, “That’s nothing more than bullshit.”
Gay Hendricks warns that all kinds of obstacles will emerge as we dare to leave our prefabricated boundaries. Fear, anxiety, doubt. Old stories about who we can be or cannot be as told to us by family, friends or “well-meaning” teachers. Accidents happen, sickness prowls. If faced with any of these while initiating – or even contemplating – a big leap, take some time to dig deeper and ask: Have I pressed against a stale idea about who I am, an ill-perceived upper limit? Has illness come to remind me of my place inside that old box?
It’s up to each of us in the creative community to wrestle with these and other questions of genius. Of course, Hendricks also says such events may not be obstacles at all – it could just be an old-fashioned cold. Regardless, take a look. See what wants to be thrust into the light. That’s where I’m at.
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