When I walked out of my law job for the last time onto bustling Madison Avenue in 2011, I knew I was taking a risk. The 80 percent pay cut didn’t fully capture it; I was giving up a set salary for the precarious, gig-to-gig life of a tutor, the same one I had lived in my twenties before law school. I would be without health insurance; I still had six figures of student loan debt; my Visa was maxed out from re-furnishing my entire apartment because of a bed-bug scare.

But I also knew that I needed to be writing—that had never been more clear to me than it became once I was logging sixteen-hour days on the twelfth floor of a New York City skyscraper. The real stake, I was keenly aware, was my soul. And so I broke my Manhattan lease, moved to a cheaper place in Brooklyn, and put my Christian Louboutin heels on eBay.

I was twenty-nine, a concern to my parents, and deep in debt—and yet my days were suddenly full of air and light. I awoke hungry, grateful to be alive. I spent mornings writing at my wobbly Ikea desk. Evenings, I tutored students studying for the LSAT. Friends and family openly suspected I’d gone a little bonkers. Why on Earth had I gone to law school if I wasn’t ever going to practice law?

For five years, I took writing courses back to back. I drafted and re-drafted. At one point, I rewrote my whole novel based on Hamilton: The Musical, linking sections in a mediocre attempt at wordplay (I’m no Lin-Manuel Miranda). I took every piece of advice anyone gave me and lost my own vision. I got it back and wrote the whole thing again, leaving musical theater out of it this time. I got a literary agent.

The morning my agent called to tell me that we had an offer from a major publisher, I stood in the rain in my yoga clothes, shivering and wet, and my whole body exhaled. The thing I wanted most in the world—for my book to be found on bookshelves—was going to happen. Those years of solitary work toward an unguaranteed goal that only I could see had not been for naught.

My husband approached in the middle of the phone call and, by my smile and frantic gesturing, he inferred what was happening. His jaw dropped. I did a silent, ridiculous dance. We did silent scream faces.

This past spring, I submitted the first draft of my third novel to my editor at HarperCollins. My novels have allowed me to travel, to meet people all over the world, to connect with readers and fellow writers in meaningful ways. These days, when I’m not writing, I’m teaching others how to finish their books and make their own writing dreams come true. I no longer need designer heels to feel like life is worth being awake for (although I won’t argue if someone wants to give me a pair), and I understand that launching a creative career—like anything valuable—takes time and requires risk.

But of all of the moments of the journey—of fear and uncertainty, of joy and fulfillment—the memory that remains the most precious to me, that still makes me smile, is standing in the rain alone, crossing over.


Adkins '04 is author of the novels When You Read This, Privilegeand Palm Beach (forthcoming) and a writing coach to aspiring authors. Learn more at maryadkinswriter.com.

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