In 2008, after 31 years of teaching high school math, I retired. During that time, the mathematics department had gone from predominantly male to predominantly female. And I had the satisfaction of knowing I'd positively influenced many young women to pursue mathematics, business, and science careers.
When asked about my retirement plans, I told everyone I was going to write. Raised eyebrows and interesting comments followed.
"With a math degree?"
"Are you planning to write a math textbook?"
"Why don’t you just relax?"
Undaunted, I launched my second act as a writer. I took courses, attended workshops, and joined writing groups. Slowly, a writing practice emerged and my articles and book reviews stared appearing in newspapers, magazines, and online. Whenever I met new people, I introduced myself as a writer.
But I felt a growing restlessness. My novel writing efforts were not being met with too much acclaim and I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of self-publishing. On a whim, I took a workshop offered by dark fantasy and horror writer Sarah Totton
. Impressed by Sarah’s tenacity—she entered the Writers of the Future Short Story Contest
17 times before winning—I listened attentively to her advice.
It had never been my intention to write fantasy, but driving home one evening, I toyed with the idea. I thought back to my favorite fairy tale: The Little Mermaid.
A beautiful mermaid is transformed into an overweight middle-aged woman? Would the man keep her or abandon her on the fog-drenched shores of southwest England?
Inspired by this premise, I started writing.
- Follow Steve Martin's famous advice: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” Take those extra courses, volunteer for committees, write and publish articles. Do whatever it takes to get your career or goal to the next level.
- Tell everyone. Once you’ve decided to move up the ladder, take the advanced degree, or write the book, let the world know. It makes you accountable and ensures that you stay on track.
- Keep in mind Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule: The key to success in any field is a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. This roughly translates into five years, the same amount of time it takes a bamboo tree to achieve its majestic height.
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