Do you ever look around and think “What just happened?”
“How did I end up here?
A flurry of self-searching thoughts tumble out:
Where did the months – nay, years go? This was not what I intended…
I had intended to have at least three or four best-selling novels published by now, maybe a movie deal and a writer’s award or two.
Well, your Honor – it was like this…. Life got in the way. As it does.
As writers we observe people, we notice things. It’s just that sometimes we are so busy looking and living elsewhere that we don’t notice ourselves. We fail to notice our neglected selves as we deal with what life throws at us. We get distracted by life’s fun-an’-games and dramas, family matters and assorted other happenings. Our dreams and goals get left by the roadside.
Then one day we get a breathing space and notice, “Hold on a minute – where am I? What happened to ME? What about my dreams and goals…?”
I’ve had a lot of ‘Shirley Valentine’ moments lately: you remember the movie starring Pauline Collins as the worn-down housewife who had big dreams and realized twenty years later, when she wins a free holiday in Greece and has time to stop and look at her life, that she has let life pass her by? “I’ve lived such a little life…,” she says, “when inside me there is so much more that I could have lived. I disappeared…. I got lost in all this unused life… ” Author Willy Russell’s words are so observant and poignant.
In fact, I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve lived a very ‘big life.’
I’ve lived in England, Paris, Holland, Spain, Malta – and now Hollywood. My movie work has taken me to Germany, France, Spain, Miami, Bermuda, Minneapolis, Colorado, New York. So I really can’t complain. I’ve met and worked with amazing people. I’ve had tremendous adventures – until recent years, when my creative-self got buried.
Sometimes we just get lost on the wrong road and it takes a while to turn things around and find our way back.
But if we creative types – writers – didn’t have these challenges in everyday life and wrong-turns, what would we write about? These diverse roads we follow give us rich fodder for our stories.
The myriad of jobs we have undertaken – sometimes under duress, or to support families and sometimes simply to support our writing habits – give us fuel for our imaginations.
Think of the English writer P.D. James, a Civil Servant, caring for her husband invalided in the war and wrote her first novel when she was 40. The late Michael Crichton, MD, was a doctor, who wrote Jurassic Park, Westworld. Lee Childs was a TV producer in England before he wrote the Jack Reacher thrillers. Agatha Christie worked as a chemist and was married to an archeologist. All great sources of information for their writing.
On the bright side, in looking back through the “What just happened…” in my own life, I realized I have been given a wealth of material to write about. A veritable extravagant buffet of characters, settings and stories. Even living in Hollywood brought me my first publishing contract for Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now, which led to my 1920s Hollywood mystery Lottie Topaz and the Flicker Murders.
I’ve worked at all the major Hollywood film studios as an actress or as a writer. All the dramas and angst of saving the Woman’s Club of Hollywood has taught me a lot about the American legal system, skullduggery amongst women and more about the law courts than I wish to know – as well as how to maintain an old historic building and run a business office.
I dealt with the sudden death of my darling husband, Rick Cameron. I’ve taken care of elderly, lonely neighbors and an ailing mother-in-law and learned far too much about hospitals, nursing homes and Medicare!
But my earlier life was much easier; travelling on the original Orient Express to Athens as a nanny, then sailing round the Greek Islands. I worked as an assistant fashion-designer in London’s ‘Rag-Trade,’ attended the Cannes Film Festivals, movie premiers, working in the theatre, TV and movies in England with some legendary actors, doing dozens of assorted ‘temp’ jobs in London, flying in a tiny 2-seater plane to the race-tracks of France….goodness. I’d forgotten so much from my youth.
I re-discovered a lot of this in my recent de-cluttering sessions.
And I have recently uncovered a stack of novels I’d written that finally need finishing. The material is right there, in our own lives, if only we can see it.
Think of our fellow bloggers here: Gayle Bartos Pool was a private detective, she lived and attended school in France, where her father was stationed with the U.S .Air Force. She has used all of this and more in her Eddie Buick and her Gin Caulfield series and her many short-stories.
Jackie Houchen travelled to Africa and Europe, teaching little kids to read and write. Her children’s stories are richer for her experiences. Linda O. Johnston was an attorney before she wrote her Harlequin romances and Nocturne shapeshifter novels. Her love of dogs and knowledge of King Charles Spaniels have launched dozens of books in her Pet Sitter series and her Barkery and Biscuits successful series. Linda has sold over one million books – imagine!
Miko Johnson was a librarian before writing took over her life, with ample research experience for her Petal In the Wind trilogy.
English-born Jill Amadio has lived in many exotic places, was a journalist in England, became a motor-racing correspondent for a magazine. She has ghost written biographies for a WWII pilot, Movie legend Rudee Vallee and an array of interesting subjects while writing her Tosca Travant “Digging Too Deep” series. Madeline Gornell lives way out of town in the Mohave Desert near the famous Route 66. This is where her inspiration for such as Counsel of Ravens, Rhodes, The Caretaker and so many of her fascinating stories originates.
So you see, all is not lost – however much time has escaped. Those intervening years have provided us with a wealth of knowledge through experiences.
Mary Wesley, author of The Camomile Lawn, had her first book published when she was 72. Grandma Moses started painting at 84. So, there’s hope for all of us, isn’t there?
What just happened? LIFE just happened!