As I procrastinate on my next novel, I think back at how invested both financially and emotionally I've been to my writing life. I traveled everywhere to research the Durant Family Saga, and when I decided I wanted to turn it into a tv series, I took a course on screenwriting. I dedicated about a year to the effort, attending webinars, placing scripts in contests, paying for feedback, etc., etc. I'm pretty determined when I want to be. In fact, I've a few notebooks filled with ideas for new plots, novels, short stories and screenplays. I thrive on the creative work.
But I never know what to expect from it. It's hard at times not to compare my experience with more successful authors.
Rachel Carson grew up knowing the world expected something from her. In a college essay she claimed to be seeking a "fuller determination of her dreams." And she did it all without social media. She did it because she stayed focused.
Although not one to pursue materialistic enterprises, her ambition did lead to financial freedom for her and her family. She grew up in Springdale, Pennsylvania in a small home with no running water or electricity. Even though the family was broke, her parents (most of all her mother) believed she had something special to contribute to the world and encouraged her to attend college. Rachel's laser sharp focus on her studies may well have been due to the fact they were always scrambling to come up with the $300 tuition to the Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham University), at one point selling off their dish-ware.
When selling the family goods didn't prove enough, her father agreed to put up parcels of land he owned as collateral to the school. By the time Rachel graduated in 1929 she owed the college $1500.00. Her father lost his land.
She went on to attend graduate school and ended up caring for her ill father, mother, and sister who was twice divorced with two daughters. They all crammed into an apartment in Baltimore where she attended Johns Hopkins University. To keep the family fed she took a job as a lab assistant in the medical school maintaining a colony of rats and fruit flies. It still wasn't enough. A friend visiting them at their cramped apartment found the family hovering over a bowl of fruit for dinner.
Rachel pursued research at Woods Hole in Massachusetts where she discovered her passion for all things having to do with the Sea. She was always drawn to writing (she entered contests at an early age) and it was her ability to convey the wonders of the ocean to a lay audience that eventually propelled her to fame. But it took time. And Rachel didn't allow her family obligations to distract her from her goals. If anything, the financial turmoil she faced made her more determined than ever to make a living wage from her talents.
Source: Souder, William. 2012. The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson.
Hi, I'm an author of contemporary and historical fiction. My next novel features a young protagonist from a lobstering family living on an island in Maine who pretends she's doing research for Rachel Carson to impress the people in her small town. Join me as I procrastinate writing the novel by blogging about Rachel.
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