Five years ago I stepped off the edge into a new adventure. Others might call it plunging into an abyss.
I worked as a tech writer full time in high tech in the Boston area, so I awoke before five and commuted an hour each way. After dinner I collapsed with a glass of wine and the newspaper. Fiction was relegated to weekends and retreats. I managed to write two more mysteries, the first and second in my Local Foods Mysteries, around the edges of my employment. Stressing out and wanting to pursue my authorial dream with more time, energy, focus, I made a three-year plan to quit the day job.
Then I read an article in the New Yorker. It said:
If you can do something risky that you think will improve your life, you ask, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’
This jolted me in the best possible direction, and I decided it was time to be more creative with my life plans. Then a good friend passed away at fifty-six of brain cancer. It broke my heart. I realized if, like Susan, I have only one more year to live, I want to be writing murder mysteries, not software manuals.
But could I do it? I wasn’t quite old enough to draw Social Security or Medicare, but I had some savings. My expenses were low; we had downsized and have no mortgage. I’d be eligible for health care under the ACA. So I committed to being a career mystery author.
Only one year into my three-year plan I resigned my well-paying job. This plunge was scary. I didn’t have quite the financial cushion I’d have liked. Maybe my contract wouldn’t get renewed. No one would want the new series. My sales would plummet. But…what was the worst that could happen? I’d get another job. What was the best that could happen? I’d get to write mystery fiction all day, every day.
And I love it. My commute is one minute to my upstairs office. I write or revise every morning and accomplish other writing-related tasks in the afternoon. I exercise every day, and have the flexibility to pop downtown for a yoga class or help a dear 86-year-old friend with her errands.
And none of those bad things happened. Readers (and publishers) do love my stories. I’m under contract to write three books a year and can turn out a first draft in as little as five weeks. I haven’t missed a deadline. I’m having success in this last and best career, with my reputation spreading and my sales mounting. I’m not Stephen King – or better, Louise Penny – yet, but things are going in the right direction.
Stepping off the edge into the adventure – or the abyss – might not be for everyone. For me, committing to living my dream was the right choice.
Agatha- and Macavity-nominated author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. Called to Justice, Maxwell’s second Quaker Midwife mystery, is nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel. Turning the Tide releases April 8.
As Maddie Day she writes the popular Country Store Mysteries and the new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Biscuits and Slashed Browns came out January 30.
Maxwell is president of Sisters in Crime New England, co-chair of New England Crimebake, and lives north of Boston with her beau, two elderly cats, and an impressive array of garden statuary. She blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com, KillerCharacters.com, and Under the Cover of Midnight. Read about all her personalities and her work at edithmaxwell.com.