Step out of your comfort zone
I was working as an executive director of a nonprofit organization. It was a one woman operation in Muskogee, OK. It started the organization because of my interest in historic preservation. When we lost our major financial supporter, the board of directors could no longer pay my salary. I had to look for another job or write the novel I’d always wanted to write since I was a senior in high school.
What made you decide to finally realize your lifelong dream?
I’ve been working on the book for years. I have been increasingly feeling the push inside, in my spirit, to ‘get it done.’ When the board president sat me down and said, ‘Now you can finish your novel,’ I knew it was time to take that leap.
My novel is based on a true story about a young missionary school teacher who opened the first school in Oklahoma.
What were the specific obstacles that you faced?
Finances. I worked for a non-profit and was not making a lot of money. The thought of being without money for a period of time – to write it, find a publisher, and do all that needed to be done, was difficult. I had to step out on blind faith. Since I’m not married and don’t have children, not having the responsibility of a nuclear family made it a little easier.
I could not write when my sisters were sick. Through the years, I would start and put it away, I would start again, then put it away. I was very busy with my job and it was difficult finding the time to write.
For me, there is such peace and comfort in knowing God and believing in the afterlife. Knowing that I have a safety net in the Lord gave me comfort. He cares about the lilies, but He is more concerned about me than the sparrows. Those promises gave me the courage to say, ‘Though I won’t have any income, He will provide for me. He will open the doors that need to be opened.’ I don’t know if I would have stepped out and done this if it had not been for my faith. The scripture I often refer to is Joshua 1:9.
As soon as I left the job, the stress level went down. It only took me two to three weeks after that to finish what I started four years earlier. It happened on my 53 birthday.
What helped you get through them?
To be honest, I had gone through tough times with two sisters facing cancer. One sister passed away in 2011 and my younger sister got the news that she had cancer.
Going through back-to-back illnesses with two close family members forms a depth to draw from to put things on paper as a writer. Luckily, my younger sister won her battle with cancer. With all the stress I had to deal with, I realized that I appreciate life so much more because I lost a loved one and faced losing another. You realize how short life is. None of us have a guarantee of tomorrow.
My extended family was very encouraging as I moved forward to finish the dream.
Were there people who tried to discourage you?
Not so much with my writing, but they were somewhat critical of the nonprofit work.
How did you feel when you finally accomplished your lifelong dream?
It’s like carrying a child and giving birth. When you order the book and there they are, it’s very rewarding and exciting. I’ve loved going out and doing book signings. It’s been very rewarding.
What advice would you give to others that are contemplating finally living their dream?
Pray about it. Count the cost when you feel like you can make the investment. It will always be scary. I don’t think anyone has achieved a dream without stepping out of their comfort zone. Have enough confidence and give it a try. No one succeeds without trying and it’s usually a lot of hard work.
To read more about Jonita and her book, visit her here.