Life Happens when You’re Making other Plans

Life Happens when You’re Making other Plans

We all know that saying, right? Well, once we get to a certain age anyhow, we do 🙂 Those in the bloom of youth might still think they’re the sole directors of their lives.

To be true, to some extent, we are.

We dream, we set goals, we plan, we take action. But as we go through this journey and begin looking back, it’s often quite amazing the paths our lives veered down—ones we would never have imagined.

As most of y’all know, I’m an author. Primarily of Literary Fiction (2 novels published, as well as a litany of short stories), but I’ve also had 4 co-authored works of nonfiction published as well.

Blessed I am, indeed, especially in today’s book climate!

An author is all I’ve ever aspired to be. Since I was little, and on through all the stages to adulthood and beyond, I’ve written and written and written.

It’s my life.

But funny enough, it isn’t my whole professional life. Or even the majority of it. My world these days is pretty evenly split, and the “other” part isn’t something I ever imagined myself to be.

I am, however, now that.

Nearly 30 years ago, I joined the DFW Writers’ Workshop. Mainly for the networking opportunities, because of course, I was already the next McMurtry!

Yes, go on and laugh here. All writers, especially newbies, must have a large dose of arrogance or they’ll never get through even the initial process, much less all the rejection to follow.

But anyhow, join I did. Every Wednesday night we would read from our own works and critique others’.

That was a great experience on so many levels.

Another thing we started doing was passing between us our entire manuscripts, to those we respected and trusted, for feedback.

Writers always need outside eyes.

And a funny thing happened: We found I had a knack for delving into the muscle, diving down to the bone, cutting into the very viscera of what was going on, the good, the bad, and the ugly of a manuscript. And more importantly, showing how to fix it regarding the how, when, why, and where. Not to mention, the who.

Because, who knew? Certainly I didn’t before that.

So of course, members started piling their manuscripts atop my head.

And since I was a literal starving artist, I went, wait a minute. If I’m gonna be spending all this time doing this, I might as well be paid!

Even if the pay was nominal. I started out charging $1 a page for a full edit and critique.

Which didn’t stem the tide.

And, equally as remarkable, the writers for whom I edited found a lot of success—they became published authors.

How cool was that! Not only was I being paid, but oh, how gratifying to help others reach their dreams! And thank me profusely for it.

The tide grew stronger. So, slowly but surely, my fees rose with it, so that after dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s, I found myself with a thriving business.

And not one I would have even considered starting.

Now, I’ve edited for NY Times bestselling authors, authors who’ve won major awards (Lords of an Empty Land just won a 2016 Spur Award), and those whose books have been made into films (Ida Mae Tutweiler and the Traveling Tea Party for one, which is still one of my favorite books!).

Fifty + books I’ve edited have been sold to Traditional publishers. Which again, just amazes me. And most of those are fiction, in an era where people reading novels is kinda going the way of the T-Rex.

Writing well is a difficult endeavor, and actually does require all that blood, sweat, and tears you hear about. In essence, it’s an absolute labor of love. I’ve always been quite fond of the advice Rilke gave in Letters to a Young Poet:

“This above all — ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? . . . And if this should be affirmative . . . then build your life according to this necessity. . .”

To persevere with writing and publishing, with the odds steep indeed, the hours long and arduous and solitary, well, that deep-seated dream must drive you.

How blessed I am to work with such wonderful writers. What a fun life it is. I get to live in a world of words—both my own and others’. And get paid to do so.

All of which came about while I was making other plans.

To this day my mind is boggled by all the events that conspired to cause this to happen, and none by my own design. I just followed the open doors.

Funny how that old saying actually holds true: When you want to give the gods a laugh, tell them your plans.

How has your life veered off onto successful paths that you never would have imagined?

About the Author Susan Malone

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.

follow me on:

Leave a Comment:

46 comments
Heather Johnson says June 7, 2017

I totally had plans for the summer. Then something unexpected came up and I had to switch everything around. That’s life!

Reply
Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com says June 7, 2017

Hi Susan! How great to hear a new insight to your her-story. I agree that we can only set our intentions and then must flow with how they reveal themselves. And I am always reminded of that quote that says, “Thank goodness God didn’t answer all my prayers.” I firmly believe that our Inner Being knows far better than our conscious mind what is best for us and if we can trust it enough everything will unfold perfectly. Thank you for that reminder today. And yes, it sounds like you have a perfectly wonderful life! ~Kathy

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 7, 2017

    Of course I love her-story, Kathy! And isn’t it just odd how our lives unfold. I love this: “our Inner Being knows far better than our conscious mind what is best for us and if we can trust it enough everything will unfold perfectly.” Yes, ma’am!

    Reply
hey sharonoox says June 7, 2017

It’s so awesome to do what you loved and get paid for it. My daughter is writing her book and she loves every minute of it.

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 7, 2017

    It’s a crazy life, but I wouldn’t change a thing, Sharon! Give your daughter my best!

    Reply
maria closeothome says June 7, 2017

Amazing that you are able to follow your dreams. But life does get in the way sometimes.

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 7, 2017

    I can’t imagine not following my dreams, Maria! And yep, life has gotten in the way–more than once. Lol. But it’s the sticking to it that counts!

    Reply
Teresa Salhi says June 7, 2017

You could not of ended the story any better – “To this day my mind is boggled by all the events that conspired to cause this to happen, and none by my own design. I just followed the open doors.” A true testament of divine guidance, trusting and allowing.

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 7, 2017

    So true, Teresa–listen to the divine guidance. Trust it. Allow the universe to bring events to you. That’s what works, no?

    Reply
Kristen from The Road to Domestication says June 7, 2017

I mean, I have quite a few examples of this LOL I guess the most pertinent one right now is that I went from being infertile one day to pregnant with twins the next LOL And life hasn’t been the same since! So wonderfully crazy!

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 7, 2017

    OH, I love that, Kristen! What a fabulous story! Congrats on your twins 🙂

    Reply
Liz Mays says June 7, 2017

It’s great that life ended up bringing you some great opportunities. It’s definitely true that things don’t always go to plan. Sometimes that’s just what you need!

Reply
Lori English says June 7, 2017

Susan,
Life usually happens like this you don’t have a lot going on and then, boom , two things hit you at once its basically a decision and you seem as if this is good news with your publications. So enjoy it. Sometimes I understand its hard to choose between one or the other. I would want to stay there with the beautiful Labs …
Lori English

Reply
Tamuria says June 7, 2017

It is so interesting how our lives seem to veer in certain directions, ones we don’t think we have chosen – more like they have chosen us. That’s how it’s been with the creative work I do with others. I would never have imagined myself making a difference in people’s lives by teaching arts and crafts and yet, I now realise it’s what I’ve been doing for decades. The fact I get paid to do this is an added bonus and I do feel blessed.

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 8, 2017

    I love that, Tami! I love that teaching sought you out, and you’re making such a difference!

    Reply
Meghan says June 8, 2017

For a brief time in my life, I wanted a career in writing and editing. I spent time and money investing in myself (including a Master’s degree in writing!). However, I soon realized that my income potential in the field wasn’t what I had envisioned. So I moved into more business focused writing and marketing. I enjoy following you and your journey because you do something that was of interest to me and is close to my heart. My path is constantly correcting itself. I believe that if we start to do something that isn’t right for us, eventually “the universe” self-corrects (although it can take a long time!).

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 8, 2017

    It’s truly tough to make a living writing, Meghan. The statistic is that 3% of Traditionally published authors make their living writing. And you know all of their names 🙂 Everyone else supplements their income!
    And it’s it wonderful how the universe leads us in different directions!

    Reply
Colleen says June 8, 2017

I stumbled upon health writing over 20 years ago in a similar way, Susan. Can’t imagine my life without it now, but at the time I had never thought of it. Funny how life finds you where you are!

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 9, 2017

    It does, doesn’t it, Colleen! And I’m SO happy you stumbled upon health writing! Love your articles.

    Reply
Joyce Hansen says June 8, 2017

I’ve always found that when I decide to go in a certain direction and it’s not the right direction, the door gets closed. Rather, my best successes have been when the door opens by itself. Wished I had known that when I was younger.

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 9, 2017

    We can’t know what we don’t know, can we, Joyce. Something tells me we’re here to learn 🙂

    Reply
Beverley Golden says June 8, 2017

Although I’ve always been known as someone who writes well and communicates well, I never thought I would write a book, Susan. My passion is songwriting…short 3 minute stories put to melodies with catchy choruses people can sing along to. I did spend time in the music industry and had high, high hopes of ‘making it’. Life took me on a very different path and music took a back seat. Then a chance conversation in a pool in Sedona, led me to a writing retreat and voila…I have a book! I’ve always believed in trusting the future that is coming towards you and saying ‘yes’ to the things that resonate and keep coming back to you. I feel my whole life has unfolded in ways I never could have imagined. Can’t wait to see what is next!

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 9, 2017

    I didn’t know you’re a song writer, Beverley! Love that. And I love that as well–say yes to things that resonate and keep coming back to you!

    Reply
Janella Panchamsingh says June 8, 2017

this is why I like to go with the flow because you never know what can happen

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 9, 2017

    So true, Janella–and most of the time, that flow brings us what we never could have imagined!

    Reply
Holly @ Woman Tribune says June 9, 2017

What an incredible story! I especially love that you discovered that you were so good at editing through a writers’ workshop. Outside eyes are everything to a writer who wants to grow and do better, and more often than not your fellow writers give you so much more. In your case, they did just that. And how exciting it must be to work with so many talented people. Congratulations on all of your success!

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 9, 2017

    Thanks, Holly! What an odd journey it’s been. Then again, maybe not so odd after all! I am blessed.

    Reply
Reba Linker says June 9, 2017

My whole life I thought I was headed one place when I only much later discovered I was headed somewhere else entirely. I love knowing this about you, Susan, and I’m hoping you are still charging such a reasonable rate because one of these days I’m going to hunker down and finish my next book (or two) and, as you said, we writers need outside eyes!

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 9, 2017

    Isn’t it funny how that happens, Reba! And no, not such a reasonable rate these days 🙂 In fact, I’m fairly expensive! But finish that book!

    Reply
Candess M Campbell says June 9, 2017

Isn’t it amazing how we end up where we belong Susan. I find the less I try to control situations, I am guided to where I belong. Love the doggy!

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 9, 2017

    Isn’t that the coolest thing, Candess–when we let go of control, we can hear the guidance!
    That’s Siren in the picture, taking to the edit. Lol. She wasn’t especially pleased!

    Reply
Judy says June 10, 2017

From the time I was young, I wanted to be a photographer. I had my first camera at the age of 10. Haven’t stopped shooting. Thing is I had to work a “real” job and take photos as a hobby. Then the amazing benefits with the job kept me there for 34 years. I take photos now but it’s a hobby. You have to create new dreams. New destiny. That’s life.

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 12, 2017

    I love that, Judy–“You have to create new dreams. New destiny.” That really is life!

    Reply
Kristen Wilson says June 10, 2017

Great blog.. and I was thinking… if we are truly living… we are ALWAYS making plans. Thanks for the inspiration

Reply
Sue Kearney says June 11, 2017

You had to throw “successful” into the request, didn’t you? Makes it harder for me to answer. Because for me, while life has brought me veers and twists and turns and continues to do so, I have trouble assigning “successful” to my memories of them. Which may be part of what’s going on, now that I think about it. Maybe my lack of ease around the concept of “success” keeps creating openings for life to throw one more veer, one more twist, one more turn my way.

From another angle: Lately I find myself describing my life consisting of four main areas of focus: my health, my business, finding housing that’s more affordable, and dating. (Although, if the dating thing doesn’t start feeling more like fun and less weird, I’ll be down to three in a minute or two.)

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 12, 2017

    It’s funny how we define success, isn’t it, Sue. Is it the world’s version (money, fame, Olympic gold)? Or does it mean something more personal (progressing in whatever areas of our lives)? While I’m a multi-published author, if I measured my success by riches and fame, I’d be pretty disappointed 🙂
    Laughing about the dating one! Yep, if it ain’t fun, why play?

    Reply
Cathy Sykora says June 11, 2017

Funny you have a dog. When I think about only wanting to serve, it’s my dog. She just always wanted to make us happy.

Book writing – me too. That’s what I wanted to do and I had kids. They’ve both written books 🙂 I still haven’t I just decide a couple weeks ago to finish a book I’d started and another one popped in. I’ve written programs…if you’re doing it for love and not money – books are good.

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 12, 2017

    Oh, I have multiple dogs, Cathy! And aren’t they just heaven on earth.
    Go write your book!

    Reply
Katarina Andersson says June 13, 2017

Yes, indeed, you never know where the path will lead. How great that you could make a business out of editing and earn on something you love to do. 🙂

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 14, 2017

    And isn’t that just part of the joy of life, Katarina–seeing where the paths do lead!

    Reply
Lorii Abela says June 13, 2017

That is the funny thing. The world has a way of teasing us. Sometimes we can get frustrated that what we wanted did not come about. Yet, all along we are being directed to what would be a more grand experience.

Reply
    Susan Malone says June 14, 2017

    So true, Lorii–if we follow the open doors, we are directed into a more grand experience!

    Reply
Add Your Reply