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