Writer, Interrupted

Photo credit: Flickr's See-ming Lee 李思明
By Flickr’s See-ming Lee 李思明

Today’s guest is Maryann Reid, award-winning author and TV/radio social commentator. Maryann has been featured by countless media outlets including USA Today, Essence, Glamour, The CBS Early Show, and The Wendy Williams Experience. In addition, she is a popular guest lecturer at colleges—where she has taught writing and business skills to groups who want to lead their ideal life on their own terms. Maryann has been profiled in The New Yorker, Newsweek, Oprah.com, and NBC Nightly News for her innovative approach to life and solving its complex issues, including creating the uber-landmark event Marry Your Baby Daddy Day.  This event originated from her third book, Marry Your Baby Daddy (St. Martin’s Press, 2005) that was optioned by Hollywood actress Holly Robinson-Peete and Dolores Robinson.

Maryann’s latest book is This Life: A Novel. Publisher’s Weekly says “Reid, the originator of the Marry-Your-Baby-Daddy movement, returns with a sexy, entertaining story… fans will enjoy the twisty plot, steamy scenes and trove of old secrets unearthed.”

Of today’s post, Maryann says she’s passionate about finding meaning in the chaos of life, not resisting the chaos, but learning and thriving in it. At times, learning to live with it.

Check out the trailer for This Life: A Novel. You can connect with Maryann on Twitter @realalphanista, on Facebook, and on her blog. Maryann welcomes ideas and collaboration.  Her website is www.maryannreidinc.com.

Writer, Interrupted

Writers don’t need peace and quiet all the time. Chaos ignites problem-solving skills that stretch creativity. This was exactly what happened to me during one of the most traumatic times of my life before I moved 10,000 miles away from home to the United Arab Emirates.

Writers don’t need peace and quiet all the time. Chaos ignites problem-solving skills that stretch creativity.

I hadn’t published since 2007. My contract with St. Martin’s Press ended when the market crashed, and everything else seemed to end, too. Less than 2 years later, I filed for bankruptcy. It wasn’t because of too many lavish dinners, but I was literally living from check to check or royalty to royalty with short adjunct stints in between. When the contract ended, everything seemed to combust and explode all over my life. I had just signed a lease to a new apartment, and another publisher didn’t pick up a book I spent months writing. I was stuck.

I was literally hustling for the next few years between consulting gigs and failed book proposals.

Several manuscripts, a marriage, a divorce, and book proposals later, I made a shift. Last year, I dug that 2007 manuscript off my hard drive and took another look. With some money I squeezed from my consulting business, I hired an editor to work with me and develop the voice, characters, storyline, etc.  As I worked on this, I started to feel alive again. After a few months and halfway through the book, my editor disappeared. I had to handle the rest of the work on my own. Bills, bouts of depression, and living back home, distracted me. I had far bigger things to figure out than writing a book. I had to save my life.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000045_00041]I began with applying to a teaching job in Abu Dhabi that came all expenses paid—health insurance, housing allowance, and tax-free income. I grabbed it without a second thought and decided that I’d get to my book whenever I get to it. I was in survivor mode. I was leaving everything behind to start over in the desert.

I was moving to a region with many restrictions, laws and an entirely different culture. I had fears of being creatively stifled and uninspired. I would be working a hard 40-hour week, everyday with long, draining teaching hours. I hadn’t worked a job in years. But I went anyway.  I had one goal: save money.

That was August.

I had to relearn everything from new social norms to figuring how to add minutes to my cell phone. In the activity of getting my new life set up, looking for housing and getting an enormous amount of paperwork stamped or approved, something emerged. The switch in lifestyle forced my mind to search for what was next. My writer-self started to ask a question amidst the newness and rush: when will the book be finished? I didn’t know. I minded my business. Until one day, I got an invitation to join an amazing writers group of women. In a busy Starbucks, we met every Friday morning in the heart of Abu Dhabi.  These women awoke the writer in me who wanted to come out again. After a few meetings and The Artists Way, I dug out the manuscript once again and started writing. By January, I had published This Life on Kindle, and in June, it will be available as a paperback.

I needed to go to a place with constraints to find freedom. I published for the sixth time, and I had my messy, unpredictable, chaotic life to thank.

Have there been times of chaos in your life that have ignited your creativity and writing? What are some of the ways you’ve coped and succeeded?

0

Comments

  1. says

    This hits home. My partner’s website is called Writer Interrupted. She’s a mom in Oklahoma and I’m a dad in Michigan. We not only found that our writing styles made us a good fit, but our lifestyles as well. Both of us feel “interrupted” often, and the other is there to say, “It’s okay, take a week, a month, I’ll be here to kick your ass when your ready.” It’s much too easy to just give up when you have a long period of inactivity. But that’s silly. We still love writing. Why surrender because we miss a year or two out of our 90 year (non-smokers) lifespan? I’m glad you found that group. It’s tough to do this alone.

    2+
  2. says

    Maybe a year or two from now, I’ll tell you my story, Reid. I’m right in the middle of my interruption. I went through Bankruptcy last year, going through a divorce in the next few months (which means I will not be seeing my stepsons for a while), and I’ll be losing my house.

    OUTSTANDING!

    I still have my job, my daughter, other family members, friends, and the WU.

    I will be living in a 30×25 studio apartment for a while. The not-so-funny thing is when I went to view the Cubby-hole, I noticed a small table, with a lamp sitting on it, placed in front of a window. Guess what I was thinking.

    I did find one diamond in the rough though. In September, I’ll be taking my “Night Angel Trilogy” hard cover copy to Cincinnati, OH. I’m due for a meeting with the man, the myth, the Legend Killer.

    Ode to Joy……….. in the middle of a FRICKIN STORM.

    0
  3. says

    Great post. Sometimes we have to pull back to really find what we need. When our lives are crazy and hectic and chaotic, it’s hard to find the will to do so, but once we get even a little bit on the other side of that, we realize just how much we can handle and what we need to to do next.

    So glad Abu Dhabi put you in the write frame of mind :).

    0
    • says

      RJ, Abu Dhabi was like stepping out quicksand, and into another side that could be anything I wanted. I chose the book. It was waiting for me to show up the whole time :)

      0
  4. says

    Maryann,

    A writers group meeting in a Starbucks in the middle of Abu Dhabi – what am inspiring thought. I am so glad you found your story’s final form and we’re able to persevere. Congratulations on moving forward.

    I can relate to the same sense of chaos (though not at all as difficult as what you have faced – I admire your courage and willpower). I’m in the middle of the chaos still, but I’ve at least been able to switch my career and lifestyle to one that is more conducive to writing. I feel like I am moving forward. One wonderful thing I’ve noticed about writing a story (and your post illustrates this) is that no matter what time elapses or what happens in your life, or however many stories you may write after “abandoning” it, the story is still there where you left it, and you have the opportunity to translate your life experience and new perspectives into it if you are willing.

    Thanks for this inspiration and I wish you success.

    0
    • says

      John, that was an issue for me. I returned to the book with a new outlook and experiences, and it indeed influenced the last 50-75 pages or so. I fought the urge to “start over”. I’ll leave that for the next one!

      0
  5. Tina Goodman says

    I think we grow tremendously during the turbulent times. For writing purposes, I need the calm times to make sense of the choas.
    Congratulations on all of your life successes, and passing through St. Elmos’s fire.

    0
  6. says

    This hits home for sure. Nine months ago I took a leap and moved to a city that had already failed me twice, both emotionally and financially. I had two friends (whom I don’t have anymore), no job, a place to live and whatever was in my bank account (not much, thanks to years of unemployment). Yet, since taking that leap of faith, my freelance business has thrived, I have a job I love, I’m back in school. I’m supporting myself. My writing is thriving and I’m about to self-publish a second novel. I’ve been forced to step outside my comfort zone and figure out this life on my own. I’m still alive and have a roof over my head. So far, so good.

    0
    • says

      Brianna, your journey sounds like an inspiration. I can relate very much to it, and how it feels to figure it all out on your own. Wishing you continued success. Thanks!

      0
  7. says

    I can relate to this, not in the same way, but in the chaos. My challenges are being disabled and having good and bad days. Some days, due to pain and illness, I can’t even think straight, so writing is an impossibility to me. I am working on my first book. I have been planning it for a couple of years. I would keep changing my mind on the plot, characters, etc. and start over. I did write some of it, only to scrap it and again start over. I’ve seen several of my writer friends go on to write 2-3 books in the time I’ve been planning this one. When asked how the book is coming along, or did you ever write that book, I just reply that I’m still working on it. Sometimes I feel like a fraud and wonder if I can really do this. Then I can have a great day and work on it for hours. So, I need to learn how to persevere and not feel like a failure. Hopefully this is not as uncommon to a “newbie” as it sometimes feels. :)

    0
  8. says

    Inspiring, Maryann! My chaos was losing my literary agent this fall. She left the biz before we submitted my novel for publication. After too many tears and Oreos, I started a blog as fun place for writers to gather to battle their creative monsters together. I’m still debating, “What’s next?” for the book, but feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

    0
  9. says

    Interesting story. I’m also struggling in my own transitions. I think willingness to experiment and having a certain level of drive are important. As much as we may love our routines, our circumstances may change, and we can’t let that be what stops us from writing.

    Thanks!

    — Arley

    0