I've been thinking a lot about my writing journey lately, probably because five years ago I published my first book. But before that, before having a book to publish, before getting my very first rejection letter, was a moment I remember very clearly. And it started with a Chanel Suit.
Allow me to provide some background info first. When I graduated from college with a degree in fine arts, I, shall we say, lacked direction. I didn't know what life in the grown up world would be like, but it seemed wise to set a couple of goals for the future. So I set myself three goals to achieve by the time I was forty:
1. Swim the English Channel
2. Run a marathon
3. Own a Chanel Suit
Now, while 1 and 2 might seem a little out of left field, I should also mention that I'd been a competitive swimmer for fifteen years (okay, that first year, when I was six, was more like playing around in the water), and my college tuition was funded by a partial scholarship. My specialty was long distance and my niche specialty was open water swims. So, yes, it was a stretch, but it wasn't like I pulled it out of a hat. Running a marathon was slightly less within my grasp. I'd been known to run to stay in shape, though the longest I'd managed was seven miles. So more of a stretch than swimming the English Channel, but not entirely outside the realm of possibility.
The suit, well, I've always loved clothes and that's sort of the brass ring of status symbol/quality/out-of-my-reach pipe dream desires.
Fast forward fourteen years. The English Channel swimming and the marathon running were but vague concepts. But I worked in retail management. One of my areas of responsibility was the Chanel salon. And, I had a discount.
Here's the part I remember clearly: one day I was working at the store, working on the displays inside the Chanel salon, when it hit me. As expensive as a Chanel suit was, the reason I didn't own one wasn't because I couldn't afford it. My household monthly bills exceeded the cost of a Chanel suit: mortgage, two car leases, cable, credit card debt, cell phones, landline phones, and various other expenses I can't even remember. Every time I'd been promoted at work, my lifestyle had shifted upward and quickly sucked up any of that extra money, which kept me constantly working toward the next promotion, almost from the minute I achieved the most recent one. The problem here was I didn't care about any of those things.
I was married to someone with different values than I had. It had always been my joke: I'd rather spend money on shoes than on a car; they're both methods of transportation. But somehow, the car(s), the house, the luxury items, the aspirational wealth had become the way of life. I had no money of my own because it all went to the other things, including the debt. I'm certainly not the only person who has lived this way, but standing there in the Chanel Salon, surrounded by beautiful clothes that I had always hoped to own, realizing I was at a level where I could afford it yet didn't have control over my finances to actually do so, I realized something.
If I wrote a book and made money from that book, that would be my own money and I could do whatever I wanted with it.
Okay, fine, nobody publishes to make a zillion dollars. But still, the idea that I had something within me that I could do that could lead to my own thing--not something anybody else could claim shared credit for--left me feeling exhilarated.
Shortly after that, I had the idea for Samantha Kidd, former fashion buyer turns amateur sleuth. She gives up her glamorous and successful career in order to move back home and rediscover who she once was and where she got off the track to her own happiness. Not gonna lie here. There's a lot of me in that statement, though at the time I didn't realize I'd be following in Samantha's footsteps a few years later.
If you're wondering if I ever got the suit, that's me wearing it in the photo above! It was marked down 75%, plus my employee discount, and still cost more than my half of the rent on my current apartment. I still have it, I still wear it, and I still love it.
My advice to you is this: it doesn't matter what motivates you. You don't even have to tell people why you're doing what you're doing. But if you're unsettled, if you're looking for a change, if you realize that somewhere along the line you lost your passion, you should do something. Figure out what your carrot is and then dangle it and go for it!
Hey! Want to read DESIGNER DIRTY LAUNDRY and see how Samantha Kidd's journey started out? You have two options:
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#2: Click on over to your favorite retailer and plunk down your own cold hard cash!