Sometimes in the course of certain careers, there’s a point where you’re no longer doing the thing you do, you’re directing other people to do it, instead.
Athletes stop kicking the ball around or tip-toeing along the balance beam themselves, and start coaching younger gymnasts and players. Actors step behind the camera instead of in front of it. Teachers move out of the classroom and into the principal’s office or curriculum development. Entry level employees become team leaders. Waiters become maitre d’s.
My daughter’s riding coach has been beaten up enough by horse falls over the years that he limits the time he actually spends in the saddle – he coaches and trains horses and riders to an impressive standard, but no longer competes himself. My husband, too, has cut down on the history he researches and writes, and has started directing and guiding the research and writing done by others.
Now, I’ve made the same leap. The final story in my five-book River Bend series, “Long Walk Home”, comes out in the Montana Born Books imprint next month, and I’ve gone over to the editing side of the desk instead. I’m guiding the development of several series, providing a sounding board for writers working through their ideas, going over manuscripts with a diligent and critical eye, and giving input into cover design, back cover copy and promotion strategies. I’m loving it so far, partly because the Montana Born authors I’m working with are so talented and professional.
If you’re a fan of contemporary romance and you haven’t yet liked Montana Born Books, Tule Holiday and Tule Publishing on Facebook, or haven’t read any of the books, please do! With best-selling and award-winning authors like Jane Porter, C. J. Carmichael, Megan Crane, Sarah Mayberry, Kelly Hunter, Rachael Johns, Melissa McClone, Anne McAllister and many more in the line-up, you won’t be sorry. I get to read their work every day now, and it is such a treat.
Okay, back to the topic!
It seems like such a common progression – going from doing to directing – that I’m interested in why it happens. Sometimes it’s about seniority. In government and corporations, there’s usually more prestige, experience or skill (and a higher paycheck) in directing than doing. But then I look at my daughter’s riding coach, with his fused vertebrae and weekly physical therapy sessions, and realize that there’s another reason, too – sometimes, doing can break you.
With athletes, it’s obvious. As they begin to age, their bodies will no longer do what they once did so easily and fluidly. In high-risk sports like downhill ski racing or rodeo, their courage can fail even more than their ligaments and bones. But you can break in other ways, too. Teaching in a classroom full of noisy, exuberant kids can take a massive amount of courage, patience, optimism and belief, and sometimes those qualities wear thin. Air-traffic controllers need nerves of steel, and they can eventually wear out.
Even writers can break. I think I broke. I think a lot of people can break, in one way or another, after making a big commitment to a challenging profession for a long time.
And what I’m coming to realize is that breaking doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Sometimes you have to break something, or break yourself, in order to find the right fresh start. Sometimes, that moment when you finally realize, “I think something is broken in my life and I need to fix it,” is the best moment you’ve had in a long time – maybe the best and most important moment you’ll ever have - whether the broken thing is your career or your body or your spirit or your heart.
So if that’s you, right now, then take courage from all those athletes and others who’ve gotten broken and put themselves back together. Because in the long run, it feels good. Did I mention that I’m loving my new job editing for Montana Born?