Wednesday, April 2, 2008

One Step At A Time

© Marta Stephens 2008 all rights

When word went out about my debut crime/mystery, SILENCED CRY, I was interviewed by several. One reporter noted in her article that: “Stephens’s life has had as many twists and turns as her novel,” and then went on to list some of my accomplishments. This encouraged me to take a quick inventory and draw up my own list.

My life hasn’t been that different from anyone else who has worked outside the home, raised a family and had a creative side that begged to be released. One thing that perhaps sets me apart is that I am a risk-taker. Calculated or not, sometimes we need to crawl out of the comfort zone and feel the edge of an uncharted path before moving forward. I prefer to describe my life as a series of stepping stones, each one leading to a new goal and the next level of development. The catch is, after achieving one set of goals, there are always choices: should I stop while I’m ahead or move forward?

Through my work at the university and growing network of friends, I see adults returning to the classroom every day in the hopes of career advancements or for the sake of exploring new interest. Others have sought the satisfaction of becoming entrepreneurs or giving of themselves for volunteer work. I applaud them all. It takes courage to chart a new path and re-invent ones self. Regardless of age, at the core of their decisions is a deep-rooted desire to secure their happiness.

My adventurous streak was never more evident to me than after the release of SILENCED CRY. The reactions from those who have known me for the past 20 to 30 years ranged from disbelief to wild excitement. Most were extremely supportive. Some, however, were curious as to why I had pursued a writing career at this point in my life and why I had chosen a genre so different from my “normal” lifestyle. Invariably, the next thing out of their mouth was, “I always wanted to ___.” Fill in the blank with a dream. When I asked them why they hadn’t pursued whatever “it” was, the consistent answer centered on a lack of confidence.

Compared to most other authors, my six-year writing career is in its infancy. As I continue to promote SILENCED CRY and have the next in the series, THE BLACK PEARL ready for release later this year, I’m more than ever before grateful for my public relations background. However, I still find that fact-based journalism hadn’t prepare me for a career as a fiction writer. Still, I believed I could write a novel and was willing to risk failure for the chance at success. I’m not alone.

Shortly after SILENCED CRY came out, I spoke with a long-time friend who had a similar experience. We met years ago when we held secretarial positions at the university. A while back, she became involved in local politics, won the primary election this year, ran for mayor and won!!! Sharon asked me the same questions about my writing. When, what, how? I explained that now that the word “retirement” has crept into my vocabulary, I didn’t want to wake up one day to find that everyone I cared about had moved on with their lives and that I hadn’t taken time to plant the seeds of my own happiness.

“Women are nurturers,” I told her, “and like millions of others, I’ve been a supportive wife and raised two fantastic children who are now in college working toward meaningful careers. I’ve done the committee work, plotted a career path, did the PTA thing, and in recent years, I’ve also helped to care for my aging parents. Now it’s my turn. I’ll never stop caring for others, but writing fulfills a need and feeds my passion. It’s where a lifetime of stepping stones has led me.”

“You could have been telling my story,” she said.

My friend and I both faced challenges and certain stumbling blocks in the pursuit of our goals, but the words, “I can’t” or “I’ll never” didn’t stop us from trying.

I’m reminded of a great line in the movie City Slickers. Billy Crystal’s character, Mitch is riding his horse on the range next to crusty old Curly. Mitch is desperate to find life’s secret to happiness. Curly tells him he knows the answer, holds up one finger, and says, “This. One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that, and the rest don’t mean (anything).” Mitch, expecting a magical revelation asks, “But what is the one thing?”

A sardonic smile slips across Curly’s sun-creased face as he says, “That’s what you have to find out.”

The neat thing about dreams is that they are as unique as the people who dare to follow them. I don’t know what the future will hold except to say that Homicide Detective Sam Harper will keep on the hunt of wily criminals and will continue to solve impossible murders. As for me, I’m grateful for the here and now; the people I’ve met and the opportunities extended to me. In spite of the hurdles, the endless revisions, and insanely late hours of typing, I’m living my dream and having a ball!

Please visit my website, sign my guestbook, and if you're interested, order an autographed copy of SILENCED CRY.


Laine said...

What an inspirational story Marta! Thanks for posting that!! I totally agree with you. Having the dream isn't the end of it. Have faith in your dreams! Have faith in your ability to see those dreams become reality! Never stop dreaming for somehting more than 'right now' and life will never be empty!

Thanks for the reminder! :)

Marta Stephens said...

Hey Laine, good to see you here! Thanks for stopping by. Glad this served as a “reminder.”

I've often wondered how much more I could have accomplished had I started writing at a younger age, but I think all things happen for a reason. I’m not the same person today that I was ten years ago and that in itself has made all the difference. ;)

s.w. vaughn said...

I, for one, am very happy for you that you're living your dream. Great post! :-)

Marta Stephens said...

Hugs SW. :)

pat said...

Great article! I feel like I am right behind you! Well, quite a few miles back! But I feel that happiness...that "one thing" that makes you really happy. Great article, Marta!

Marta Stephens said...

Thanks Pat! I know you'll make it. A HUGE congratulation on winning FIRST prize in the Seacoast Writers’ Association essay contest with your piece titled, "Vases."

It's a beautifully written story, well-deserved of the recognition! So happy for you. :)

James Goodman said...

That was a great post, Marta. Very inspiring.

I'm glad you reached for your dreams and found that they were not only close enough to touch, but to pull close, cherish and nuture into a reality.

Marta Stephens said...

Hey James!! Thank you. The journey is always better when you're among friends. ;)

Kim Smith said...

"I'm living my dream and having a ball" -- gee- that really says it all doesn't it? I mean all the work, the promotion, the marketing, the constant barrage of things to do, cannot dim the brightness of our enthusiasm as a writer!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Marta - beautifully stated, my friend. One of the things we parents/caretakers tend to forget or minimize is the need to nurture ourselves. Our souls. Our desperate need to create and connect. And writing does that for us, doesn't it? My happiness also spreads to photography and gardening... so fulfilling. Add to that a couple of adorable grandsons, and life is complete! Thanks for a great read - wonderful!