While we may dream of opportunity knocking on our door in the form of Oprah bringing us a new car or hitting the lottery, the biggest opportunities in my life have come disguised as something less appealing. When my father was dying and my sister was crumbling under the stress of taking care of him, we made a pact to sign up for a fiction workshop and get a start on the novels we'd always talked about writing one day. It became an escape from the reality of hospital waiting rooms and long hours at the dialysis clinic.
At the end of three months I had about 30 pages. I sent those off to a contest hoping for feed back--it was a contest for both unpublished and published authors so I didn't even entertain the concept of winning until I won. Winning the contest was the opportunity hidden inside a very painful ordeal. It opened a the door to publication for both The Tiger's Tale and The Dungeon Gourmet.
My dad was still with us when news of the contest win came. He was so weak I could barely hear his voice over the clack of the dialysis pump. "I always knew you were good," he said. "It's about time somebody else figured it out." :) You gotta love fathers.
As Brown Paper Wrappers
Sometimes opportunity comes wrapped in the plain brown wrapper of tasks you might like to skip over but know you shouldn't. I try to run a race every few months so that I'll do the daily running that keeps me fit and healthy. There's a race in Virginia Beach each spring I like to attend. The last time I was there I agreed to join some friends for a bike ride through the Dismal Swamp the following day. I hate bike rides. A bike ride through a dismal swamp didn't sound like an opportunity, and it's even less appealing the day after running a half-marathon. I am so glad I went. If nothing had come of the ride but a good time with friends in a spectacular park, that would have been enough. It was incredibly beautiful and impressive. Perhaps that is the reason Robert Frost, Edgar Allen Poe, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, among others, found writing inspiration there.
And while that trip was the seed of an opportunity, it didn't take form until I left a comment about a video game I liked in a long discussion thread. If you're here from Sunday Scribbling's you know how frustrating it can be to try to leave feedback, especially on some sites where the comments can run to several pages and there's slim possibility anyone will read what you said. That particular day a game developer, Darek Rusin of Orchid Games, was reading and saw my comments on romance video games. He got in touch through email and our discussion continued.
Darek recognized the dearth of video games based on stories that appeal to women. My blog comment and that ride through the swamp combined to create an opportunity for me to write a game story. Spirit Walkers: Curse of the Cypress Witch, a story I wrote about friends going on a hike through the dismal swamp, will be released as a an adventure game in the next week or two.
I'm wanting to skip my daily run today, but now that I've written this I'm thinking I'll have to do it.
How many of you ever get so frustrated with your computer or a new program that you want to chuck the whole mess out the window? That's not usually the case for me. I can generally figure things out and I'm inspired by the challenge, but when author Tibby Armstrong talked me into tackling virtual worlds and trying Second Life I thought I'd met my Waterloo. Three months of trying and I was barely functional. At that point I'd learned to log in, walk in a snaking duck sort of fashion, and that's about it. Going up stairs usually resulted in me tumbling over the side several times before I made it to the top. When I tried to walk through a door I hit the wall to the right and the wall to the left before I managed to get focused on the center. At which point the door would swing shut and I'd hit it.
A year later, I'm doing better. I've graduated to building fantasy worlds for my story settings and making comical attempts at joining in role play. Persevering in Second Life was the seed of this most recent opportunity. Hitting a roadblock on my current WIP allowed the seed to germinate and grow into Snatch Me, a novella that takes place in the parallel worlds of a young woman's real life and her virtual life. I just got the cover art this week from the publisher. :)
And while I haven't progressed along the path toward enlightenment sufficiently to embrace things like disaster and frustration as opportunity when they occur-- it helps knowing it's possible that something good will grow out of a bad time.
This post was written in response to the Sunday Scribblings prompt: Opportunities. See what other participants wrote here.