Money matters. It’s a simple statement and one we all live by in ways large and small. But is money all that matters? Of course not. There is family. There is faith. There is our health. And somewhere, often at the bottom of the list, there lies our creative soul. Why is creativity usually left to last? Perhaps because it feels selfish. Perhaps because it’s been overlooked for so long we feel hopelessly dis-attached from it. Perhaps because what is most personal to us is also most easily bruised, even crushed, and therefore the most carefully guarded. And so it is safer to focus on everything except our still small voice within.
For me, I had done all the safe things in my adult life, including providing for my family and amassing enough forms of insurance to protect us from most all perils known to man. And yet my creative voice was restless. In the safety of my den I wrote songs, poetry and even screenplays. But none of it ever made it out my front door.
One fall, about five years ago, I tried writing a children’s novel. To my surprise, I finished the draft in about three months. It was not the most amazing manuscript ever but I had great fun in the process. It lit a fire to learn more about the craft of writing. My wife ran across a one year Writing For Children Program at the University of Washington. Despite my panic, I enrolled.
Entering class the first night I was scared to death. But I hung in there one week at a time. Along the way, our professor introduced us to The Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), a national organization of children’s authors and illustrators. I suddenly found myself in a community both large and small of like-minded others.
After so many years of writing alone I discovered the joy of being part of a creative community. There were many ups and downs over the course of that year. At times, I felt as if I’d returned to my adolescence, experiencing a day to day pendulum of emotions. Life shifted from being a slow moving river to a wild and woolly roller coaster ride. It was at all times frightening and marvelous.
Not long after finishing the program I landed a literary agent. Not long after that I sold my first picture book text, a text I had written while in the UW writing program. The Problem With NOT Being Scared Of Monsters, my first picture book, came out this summer, almost exactly five years after entering the UW program. There are two more books in progress and others in development. In the last few months I’ve had the indescribable experience of holding a book with my name on the cover and visiting schools as the guest author. Amazing!
In many ways, my life is still the same. I still run a real estate business that strives to help families through the tumultuous journey of moving. I still have my own family that is my greatest joy. But I also wake up every morning grateful for the newest addition to my life that is, of course, in reality the oldest. And for that I am very, very grateful.
Learn more about Dan and his books at danrichardsbooks.com.