Cooper West: Fall Changes

Cooper West, author of Dawn in the Orchard and Mixed Signals, among others, is my special guest blogger today! She’s written on one of my favorite subjects: autumn and the changes that it brings. I know many people aren’t fond of the season, but for me, it is personally my favorite time of year!

Do make Cooper welcome today, and share with us all what this time of year means for you!

Fall Changes by Cooper West

This is not actually a post about Halloween. I love Halloween, it’s probably my favorite holiday by far, but to be honest this year I don’t have much energy for it.

The thing is, 2012 has been a rough year so far. Not just for me; pretty much everyone I know has been hit by health problems, financial crises, family tragedies, pet calamities and relationship difficulties. So now it’s October and officially Fall/Autumn and I’m ready for the change in the weather.

There is a reason we have holidays set around the turning point of seasons, either their start or their deepest point, and that’s to mark the passage of time. To honor it. And so I’ll light some decorative candles to mark Halloween but what I’m really anxious for is the change that it represents.

Over at my own blog I talked a bit about how 2012 started out for me: with whooping cough. That illness is no joke, in fact it is catastrophic (get your booster!) and it forced me to make difficult decisions. The most difficult of them was to suspend my writing career almost completely: no writing, no editing, no marketing. But my priorities were to get well and get my master’s degree, and I could not do everything.

Nine months later I’ve graduated with my masters and I’m working on getting my health back, but it has been one hell of a slog. Those difficult choices were necessary, though, and I can’t live my life regretting them.

The good news is that I really do believe change is coming. It’s here, in fact – cooler evenings, drier afternoons (do not underestimate the power of high humidity to make you droop) and, for me, time to spend writing. Not a lot of time, but some. I’ve also managed to format and release my free ebook, Henri’s War, which is something I originally intended to do back in, oh, April. *sigh* As I wrote above, I knew what stopping would mean to my writing career, but it was a choice I had to make and I refuse to carry regrets about it.
Hard choices never end, though. I’m looking at a professional career field that is chock-a-block full of unemployed people looking for work. Even for experienced, highly credential people, job hunts are taking six months to three years. It is so discouraging.

But then I step outside into the beautiful, blue-skies 70F degree morning and I realize: life is too short to belabor these things. It’s too short and too precarious – the whooping cough and subsequent broken back (yes, I broke my back coughing so hard; get your booster!) made me realize: I am not here on Earth to check boxes of social expectations.

The hard choice being marked this month for me is the decision to cut back on job hunting. There is only one perfect job for me, and that is being a writer. It would be great to find a high-paying position in the field I went to graduate school for, don’t get me wrong, but my very valuable free time is so very limited. I can spend all my time looking for a job, any job, that might kind-of sort-of be okay…or I can spend most of that time writing and making my dreams come true.

And quite frankly, it hasn’t been a hard choice to make. It will be financially difficult for me for a while, but that was going to be true no matter what (barring winning the Florida Lottery). In the end, it was not a hard choice because of what I was choosing between but because of what I was having to acknowledge about myself: that checking a box saying “academically and professionally successful in my chosen field” is something that would require a higher price than I’m willing to pay in time and personal investment. It was a very profound moment when I let go of that goal.

Yet it was an easy choice because I have a vision in mind of what constitutes my perfect day, and that day has nothing to do with a respected, 9-5 job in a cubicle farm. It was a choice about what changes I want to see happen this fall, along with Halloween and cooler temperatures.

Maybe you are also in a position to make this kind of decision, and maybe you aren’t. But I encourage everyone to use the onset of autumn to examine what kind of changes, if any, you want to make. When the next holidays hit, those mid-winter ones full of busy chaos, gift giving, and piles of sugar, what changes will you have made happen? At what point along the path towards your goals will you be then?

My plan is that I’ll have a couple of books submitted to Dreamspinner, and another I’ll be self-publishing by January. I’ll be regularly writing 1000 words a day (right now I’m at about 300). I might have found a better job than the two low-paying ones I’m juggling right now, or not, but that’s not very important to me. I’ll keep job hunting just in case, but as I light my (bright orange!) holiday candles this month, I am focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel they represent. Join me!


5 thoughts on “Cooper West: Fall Changes

  1. Hi Cooper, thank you for sharing your triumphs and goals. 2012 has been incredibly taxing to everyone I’ve spoken with, and I wish us all a peaceful end of year and new beginning come 2013. Best of luck to you as you move forward.

    • You know, I’d have to echo that, Chrissy–so many people I know have undergone such major struggles this past year–economically, physically, emotionally, financially.

      And yet it really feels to me that we’re turning a corner. I feel change in the air and I can see an increase in work coming my way. I’ve gone from not having enough business to having too much–and struggling to catch up from a long, dry season. But I am more optimistic about the future than I’ve been in a long time!

    • Thanks Chrissy! Like Sarah said, I really do feel like we’re all turning a corner here at last. I remember the trauma of trying kick-start 2012 (Sarah will remember that with amusement, I think!) but only do I feel like things are taking off. Thanks for reading and commenting, and all the best wishes to you too!

  2. I hope things keep changing for the better and that you can get in the writing you want. I look forward to reading more stories from you in 2013!

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