Stumbling into Passion
Guest Blog by Donna Sager Cowan
Growing up in a large family, I often felt overlooked. As the youngest child, I constantly tried to catch up to whatever achievements my siblings had accomplished. While they attended school, I was still at home, without friends or playmates. My mom was too busy providing for a large family to entertain me.
To my young mind, the books my siblings brought home from school were the key to being included. I desperately wanted to go to school, so I stole their books and taught myself to read. It was something I kept hidden from everyone for years. I didn’t know it was unusual or anything, just that I wanted to belong.
That leap of faith opened a whole new world for me. I now had adventures to go on — new friends to meet inside the books – and once my family realized how much I loved to read, I would share those adventures during mealtimes.
Although my mother encouraged me, the rest of my family were puzzled by my insatiable need to read and tell stories. Once I could write, I began to write my own ideas – first changing familiar characters to create new adventures – then crafting my own unique stories.
It was a private endeavor, not something I wanted to share with others. Around fourth or fifth grade, a Librarian offered me an unusual book, because I had read everything else in the library. The book, The Man in the Box, wasn't exactly age-appropriate, but it helped me see that anyone could write a book, as long as they told a good story.
For years I honed my craft, but never felt ready to share anything with others. My life became complicated as I grew up, with more demands for my time––marriage, family, and a career were now my focal point. Even so, I continued to steal moments to write.
At age 29, a couple of injuries lead to the diagnosis of a neuromuscular disease. The condition quickly escalated, taking over my life––I couldn't work, and was barely able to function as a wife and mother. Over the next 20 years, I would undergo 50+ surgeries, spend 10 years in a wheelchair, and become virtually a hermit. I felt trapped inside my failing body while my mind was still active and thriving. The only thing that saved me was reading and writing.
That diagnosis and the removal of everything familiar changed my life – I now had time to learn, and perfect my writing. Dabbling in every genre, I enrolled in every available online class to improve my skills. Yet challenges persisted. Just holding a pen or typing was nearly impossible. I had to learn new programs for dictation. Writing was slow and tedious, even while my mind raced to dictate words and ideas. The software couldn't keep up. I switched to dictation recordings and hired someone to transcribe my writing — but that was ridiculously expensive. Again, I felt defeated and unable to pursue this one, last dream––telling stories.
A decade later, I now had grandkids.
Healthwise things were better, medical advancements improved my daily life. I no longer needed to use a wheelchair, although managing my health continued to be the focus of my days. The one great thing was, I had time to spend with my grandchildren. I couldn't do much, but I could read to them.
We began a nightly ritual of bath time and bedtime stories. When we ran out of books, I would make up a story or share ones that I had written before. They loved them!
Although they assured me, I think spending time together made the stories more exciting. My family encouraged me to write and share more of my own stories — even asking me to write them down for their friends.
One day, one of my granddaughters asked me about my cat, named Ladybug. She asked why Ladybug stayed out all night and returned exhausted the next day. Of course, that question sparked a new story, about a feline Superhero saving her animal friends.
That question, and the ensuing story, was a pivotal moment for me. With their love and support, I began writing my first Superhero School book, as a precursor to the first story. The idea blossomed and grew into a book series––The Superhero School series.
I realized I could share a little of my own wisdom, craftily hidden inside an adventure/mystery caper. Drawing inspiration from my young grandchildren and things they struggled with, I created a cast of animal characters facing similar issues with friendship, trust, and adolescent insecurities that many kids wrestled with.
I had no idea that my writing journey would take me so far. Now, six years later I am a writer, editor, and publishing coach for new authors. I'm about to publish my fifth and sixth books; expanded my work into ghostwriting; while hosting two weekly writing groups; plus adding my own podcast highlighting challenges and obstacles for authors and writers, called The Writer’s Parachute.
I truly believe I wouldn't have created all these things had I not endured those setbacks and obstacles throughout my life. I love helping authors and writers find their own path and encourage anyone to dream on paper–– chasing dreams since they won't chase you back — to find passion and experience more than you can imagine.
In my third book, Patty Porter’s story in With the Passion of a Pig, often resembles my own. She struggles to balance knowledge with compassion; choose right vs wrong; and connect to her friends. Being completely outside her comfort zone in another world, Patty learns the value of patience, teamwork and amazing possibilities.
I believe my second chance began when I wrote and published that first book, With the Courage of a Mouse, because I needed courage. But, I also wouldn't trade any of the challenges or lessons in my life since they led me to my passion, purpose and several amazing possibilities.
It’s been a long, hard won journey, but I don’t struggle to find my purpose any longer. Now I can pursue this amazing passion that I somehow stumbled into with my whole heart.
~Donna Sager Cowan
Follow Donna and all her work here: https://linktr.ee/catt.the.cat