Fifty-One: At The Start Of My Second Half-Century, I’m Rethinking Everything

Follow Your Passion

Follow Your Passion

Inertia’s a bitch.

It can mean doing nothing until something kicks you out of your complacency and starts you rolling.

But inertia can also summon up Newton’s First Law, part of which is: “An object in motion remains in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

You get rolling in a particular direction, and it make sense, so you keep on rolling in that direction, doing the same things, dealing with variants of the same problems, until your direction, your actions, and your life all start to feel inevitable.

Inertia tells you: This is what you’re doing, therefore this is what you ought to be doing. It’s working, therefore why question it?

Until now, since I started teaching writing online back in 2006, I have NEVER taken a vacation that did not include checking both e-mail and customer service at least a few times. So I never had a full stop to derail my inertia. Even if I rolled slower, I still kept moving in the same direction.

My inertia included back-to-back-to-back 70-hour seven-day-a-week work weeks, creating new writing courses, supporting older writing courses, writing newsletters about writing, building a (very cool) writing community, and a LOT more.

Recently, with the self-publishing explosion, I added getting rights back on all my out of print work, and adding in MORE work while I get those ready to reprint.

There was answering a lot of writing e-mail.

There was lots and lots and lots of customer service.

People love my writing courses and get some simply amazing results from them. So putting what I know about writing into in-depth, comprehensive courses felt like the way things ought to be. What I ought to be doing.


If you want to shake off your inertia, to actually see your life as it is, and to be able to question what you want it to be, there’s nothing like jamming a right-angle turn into your forward motion to shake you loose from everything you accepted as having a permanent place in your life. And the past two weeks have been, for me, that right-angle jump-the-tracks come-to-a-screeching-halt turn.

There was the vacation, first of all. I turned the computer off, and left it off, for two straight weeks. I did not look at e-mail, I did not touch customer service, I did not pay affiliates, I did not work on courses.

I. Was. Gone.

There was my time with the Air Force kid. My older son had a grim time in Afghanistan, which is not to say his tours of the Middle East’s other “vacation spots” have been picnics. But Afghanistan was a real nightmare, and even now that he’s home, there are parts of this last deployment he isn’t going to shake off. Not in a few weeks, a few months, a few years. Not ever. A line of ghosts follow me from my ten years in nursing. He has his line of ghosts, too, and though they’ll become less insistent over time, they won’t go away.

As much as we could, we worked around the ghosts. I loved being able to sit and talk with him again, to discuss the screenplays he wrote while he was in the desert, to talk about going indie from the film-maker’s perspective. I loved just being able to see him, and to know that he was okay, he was safe, he was home.

And I loved having nothing but time to spend with Matt and my younger son, too.

There was Steve Jobs’ death, and I’d be lying through my teeth if I suggested that was anything but a massive wake-up call. He created what he loved, not asking what people wanted but envisioning what he wanted, pushing past “that’s not possible” to make what he wanted possible, and then bringing his visions to those of us who have appreciated the hell out of them.

Figure: Having Windows eat my work, crash regularly, update constantly, welcome viruses like long-lost friends, and require constant fucking tinkering with the system, in the form of .ini files and other tweaks, just to get programs I needed to function so I could get writing, printing, and internet work done, was a part of my life, my expectation, my inertia. I backed up constantly when I remembered, and when I got into the flow of my fiction, I lost whole chapters because that’s just the way Windows is.

Until my husband bought me an early OS X Snowball Mac. I got it for Christmas in 2002. In the almost ten years since then, I have ONCE lost words. About three hundred of them, if I remember correctly. MY screw-up. The Mac asked me if I would like to save the file when Word crashed, and I, being VERY new to the system at the time, said “no.”

I haven’t lost a single word since. And since then, I’ve upgraded through iMacs and iBooks and Pros, and currently have an older Pro, the 11″ minimal-configuration Air, and the currently largest possible iMac desktop. Every Mac I ever owned still works. I just needed bigger and faster for the courses, the movies I was creating. And because, let’s face facts: I’m a total tech ho and while I don’t spend money on shoes or clothes or much of anything else, I’m white on rice when it comes to upgrading to a new computer.

So I owe Steve Jobs’ driven passion to create the best possible products—and to hell with the naysayers—for making my life measurably better.

And the wake-up call from his death, combined with the other elements above, allowed me to question my own passion.

Which takes me to Week Two of my vacation, in which, relaxed, happy, and caught up on my sleep, I wrote three and a half chapters of the new Cadence Drake novel, Warpaint.

And became reacquainted with my real passion. Which isn’t teaching. I’m good at teaching, I like it, and I love students’ success stories.

But I love to write fiction.

And when I compared four hours a day five days a week while everyone else was asleep, stretched out on the couch with the Air propped on my lap, embracing my passion by telling a story I want to tell while knowing it’s going to get published the way I want it to be published…

…Versus seventy-hour seven-days-a-week workweeks stretching as far into the future as I could see, struggling to translate how I do what I do into techniques and procedures and processes other people can use to embrace THEIR passion…


…You probably have some idea where I’m heading with this.

But I guarantee you don’t have the whole thing, so stick with me a few more minutes.

Yes. I’m going to quit teaching.

No. I’m not abandoning my students.  ALL students who are members of the big courses, including students who join the day I lock each course’s doors to new members, will have permanent access to all your purchased course materials, including, if applicable, the Walkthrough, new self-pub modules, or any other course upgrades, depending on the course in question.

No, I’m not abandoning any of my current courses.

And no, I’m not abandoning the three big promises I’ve made.

Promises first.

I’m finishing the How To Think Sideways Walkthrough. Furthermore, the online version will be the FULL version of the course, minus a few handouts I cannot include, and the Walkthrough. It will include the lessons for Self-Publishing, but it will also include the Commercial Publishing track. So it will be 29 lessons, not 25.

I’m expanding the How To Write A Series Course with what I learn while writing the Cadence Drake series.

And I’m finishing Create A World Clinic.

I’m looking at, best guess, about two more years of working insane hours while I meet these three promises, and at the same time write several Cadence Drake novels, move ALL my courses to Kindle/ Nook/ iTunes/ CreateSpace.

The rest of what I have to do:

Before I can dedicate myself to my passion, writing fiction, I also have to make sure existing big-course students can use the online version of the courses permanently.

And Margaret and I have to put together a way for the students who take my classes via the big publishing platforms (again, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and CreateSpace) have a way to join the Boot Camps writing community.

The Boot Camp Community, with its Self-Pub Resource Providers, its lesson-by-lesson discussions on How To Think Sideways, How To Revise Your Novel, and as soon as we can get the database updated, How To Write A Series, its camaraderie and friendships, will remain and continue to grow.

The Boot Camp Community currently offers free lifetime membership to students of HTTS, HTRYN, and HTWAS for their respective courses (and of course, students of all three courses have lifetime access to the entire community).

For students who take the e-book or print versions of the course, Boot Camp membership will be optional, and will require a small monthly fee or a one-time lifetime membership payment for whichever course the student is taking.

And I’ll become a Boot Camp member writer, rather than an overworked occasional visitor.

But as I get things transferred, everything else is going off my sites. I’ll be closing my little writing shop, and closing the online versions of HTTS, HTRYN, and HTWAS, as well as the Free Plot Outline course.

I’m working on transferring How To Think Sideways first, and the Walkthrough will not be included in the e-book and print versions. I may at some later date figure out a way to do the Walkthrough lessons as DVDs, but right now, my plan is to simply keep them available for Legacy HTTS students.

If you want the How To Think Sideways course with free lifetime community membership and the Walkthrough included, you’ll need to join before I post all the lessons on Amazon and Barnes & Noble (because of technical issues, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to offer the course on iTunes).

I have that pencilled in on my calendar for February, 2012. On the day the course goes live on the big platforms, the doors for the online version close permanently to new members.

How To Revise Your Novel will then follow suit as quickly as I can make it happen.

How To Write A Series will be open to new students considerably longer, because I still have to write the books that I’ll use to expand the course.

And following that, I’ll write the rest of Create A World Clinic, which will ONLY be available through the big platforms. I’ll never sell it from my own shop, which I hope to close before or around the same time I close How To Write A Series.

It comes down to time.

I’m fifty-one.

I don’t know how much I have left, but whatever time I have left, I want to invest in my passion, my true love, the thing that has made me willing to pop out of bed at six in the morning for the past twenty-seven years, just to be a part of it.

I’m going back to writing fiction exclusively.

All the existing courses will still be there for you, in one fashion or another. The community will get even better.

But no matter how long I live, I cannot live long enough to tell all the stories I still want to tell. I would, however, like to write as many of them as I can.

And I aim to give it my best shot.

Print Friendly


Fifty-One: At The Start Of My Second Half-Century, I’m Rethinking Everything — 219 Comments

  1. Holly, I’m a recent graduate of your HTTS course and have been in awe throughout the entire program of your output. But I was never fooled to think that it was easy. I saw hours and hours of time invested in each lesson. When you added the WalkThrough I thought: is this woman crazy or superhuman! So am I surprised that you’re stepping back? Not at all. Good for you for taking that break! AND for figuring out how to get back to what you love the most. Your students will always be grateful for the years you devoted to us!

  2. Even in this you inspire us–to do what we love to do! I hope someday I’ll be able to buy the print versions of those courses :-) Good luck to you, Holly.

  3. I completely understand. I started writing when I was 39, w two years after my mother died (she was 64). Life is too short – regardless of how long you are blessed to live – to not follow your passion.

    Thank you for sharing that passion with us your students. Best of luck in your ventures and a REALLY REALLY look forward to reading the work that comes out of your new focus.

  4. Dear Holly, thank you so much for all your years of teaching. As one of those students whose life you helped change, I am immensely grateful for your hard work and sacrifice.

    I’m so excited for you as you return to writing for fun, and hope that the transitional years won’t be quite so insane. Good luck with everything, and I look forward to reading your new books!

  5. I wish you the best Holly. It sounds like you know what you need to do with your life. :)

    Since HTWAS was the bonus gift for HTRYN students, will there be a discount offered to those that want to receive the updates but didn’t buy the course? Or should we buy the course now?

  6. Good for you! Can’t wait to read the fruits of your labor. Thanks for everything, Holly! Cheers to the 51 years and counting!


  7. Hi Holly,

    I just want to say that I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to learn from you. Just reading about your decision to write fiction exclusively gave me chills making me realize that the calling is there for me too. I have so many stories to tell and I need to make them a priority because it is what I love the most.

    Stumbling across your website was such a gift! I will never forget the excitement of receiving my lessons every week as I created a story I was in love with (and in the process of slowly revising through HTRYN).

    Good luck with everything and I look forward to reading all of your works.

    Thank you!

    Anushka :)

  8. I am 63, retired a year and a half ago. I wanted to write full time, planned for it for years. But, I had no savings and my SS was very low (less than $700), so I had to do something. I am writing full-time, but on paid for writing jobs, low-paying articles for the most part. I can’t afford to do that because I am sinking. My power and water are due to be turned off tomorrow, I have no health insurance, no money for med expenses, and am sinking. I have been trying to go back to teaching, but can’t seem to find anything.

    I am rooting for you to make a go of it. I will still be trying. It really is important to follow our dreams. I see that now that I am possibly in my last decade or two.

  9. Holly,

    My daugther began writing years ago. She loved your books, “The Silver Door” and “The Ruby Key.” She writes and writes. She never finishes anything…………’s very hard because I know she has talent……but evidently not discipline.

    I subscribed to your newsletter and a free download of your “classes” to help inspire her, but she has not taken avail.

    In the meantime, I’ve read about you, your struggle, your life.

    I belive that you: Have. Made. The. Right. Choice!

    You GO! Live your life with your family and be happy.

    I wish you much joy!

    PS–I just turned 51.

  10. Best of Luck to you Holly, in the short time I have been ‘with’ you, you have been an inspiration. 4 years of Writers block smashed! Thank you. See you in print!!

  11. Holly, I took the same step when I hit 50 (actually, for me it was a little earlier, but the same principle). I decided then that my life was at least half over and if there were things I wanted to do, I’d better get on with doing them. First came the Army – yes, I was 50 when I joined the Army, and served three tours “downrange.” Like your son, I will have my ghosts for the rest of my life, although they have gotten quieter in the last few months, only haunting me a couple of days (or nights) a week instead of constantly.

    I took a hot air balloon ride. I visited Cuba. I moved to AZ (I’ve always been enthralled with the desert southwest). And I started writing. Between your courses and NaNoWriMo, I’ve completed two novels (although they need revising) along with a number of short stories, for which I thank you. Someday I’d like to be published. But just the act of writing is enough for right now.

    So, I said all that to say – go for it, Holly! Enjoy the second “half” and do all the things that you thought you wouldn’t have time for! And be there for your son. Sometimes that’s all it takes to keep the ghosts at bay.

  12. I’m fifty one as well, and can totally understand what’s happening to you. In fact, I was honestly wondering when you’d figure it out–those migraines haven’t been coming out of nowhere!

  13. Well Holly, I can’t bring myself to say that I’m disappointed. You’re a fantastic teacher but it’s true, I think you’re an even better writer, and I love your books. I look forward to many more stories from you.

  14. Holly, you’ve been an overwhelming inspiration and help to me the past few years. I’ve been using your HtTS course for developing my writing, the workshops on your website for brainstorming and the articles you’ve written as a means to get through those inevitable low points. If I had to choose one word for you, it would be: Amazing. And I am so excited for you to go back to doing what you love, and enriching your own life in the best way possible for you. Plus–more books for us to read! A million thanks, and the best of luck.

  15. I’m right there with Victoria Dixon — I haven’t been able to take your big classes, but I was hoping to someday if we ever manage to free up some positive cash flow. So I’m disappointed that it looks like that’ll never happen, but I completely understand, and I think you’re more of an inspiration than ever for doing what you need to do to pursue your passion. Good luck and thanks for all you’ve done for the writing community.

  16. So much to say, starting with, “I’m on your side.”

    Stuff that’s happening in my life right now makes it 100% easy to understand your conclusions.

    You know Randy Ingermanson hasn’t written any new long fiction since he started teaching, right? I think that’s correct.

    You’ve got a slog ahead of you, and I’m sorry not to be able to help, but I’m cheering you–and all the other members of this community–Onward!

    • I did a couple of books while writing the courses, but dammit, it’s too hard.

      I’m doing a book while writing the Walkthrough. But dammit, it’s too hard.

      And I’ll write some more Cady while doing the expanded version of How to Write a Series. But dammit, it’s too hard.

      Teaching has been a blast. It’s forced me to really dig into how I do things, and has benefited me as much as it has my students.

      But teaching is work, and writing fiction is breathing, and I don’t want to have to work to breathe.

  17. it feels good to have a life focusing event, doesn’t it? My best to you Holly, and I look forward to reading more of your work. I wondered when you had time to write. Because you spent some time teaching, you got me writing again. I finished my first draft on my first novel, and for that, I am very grateful. Thanks to you, I am going to dust off a how-to manuscript I wrote 20 years ago but could not find a publisher — and try to sell it myself. And I will continue to learn … thanks to the classes I have taken.

  18. Yes! Do what makes you get out of bed every day with joy and excitement. I don’t care what age you are 18 or 65 – it’s never too late. Sure, it’s way simpler to go with the flow of one’s life than to make a different choice (aka change) but often those choices / changes bring the most fulfillment.

    Holly, my mom is also 51 and she is finally getting to the heart of her passions and true life purpose, which is what I want most for her (and everyone). She’d gotten sidetracked over the years by a business that she enjoyed initially but then it just began draining her more and more. And I had to remind her to practice what she was preaching to clients: Follow YOUR passion.

    Take care!

  19. Hi Holly,

    You might not remember me, but I was one of your prospective editors back in RebelTales. I’ve never taken any of your courses, but I’ve been a silent follower of yours for years now. I’ve learned a lot from your perspectives on fiction and your tenacity for life and joy. Though I’m sure your students will miss you, I’m glad you’re climbing back into the full-time-writing saddle.

    Though my opinion matters 0%, I’m behind this decision 100%.

    Go get ‘em.


  20. Hi Holly! Believe it or not, I’ve been receiving your weekly (?) e-mails for several months now and promised myself I was going to take one of your courses. But I never got around to it. I have taken MANY courses in the last two years and most of them just didn’t resonate with me. I read the words but they would NOT sink in. Whereas, when I’d read your e-mails I “understood” what you were saying – which was refreshing. I want to thank you for that. While reading through your post (above) I was a little confused. Are you still offering courses up until a certain date that I could still take? I didn’t understand that part.

  21. Hi Holly,
    great decision you’re making!
    Take care of your health and your passion. I can’t wait to read what new stories you need to tell.

    Just to make sure, though, when you say you’ll be closing the online courses, what does that mean for us, former or current students who got the course online? Do we need to download everything or will the access remain for us?


  22. What can I say… other than you are the best and I wish you only the best. I made a similar statement about 8 years ago and have only just been able to keep most of my word on my commitment.

    I told everybody that the first 50 years of my life were for family and friends, but that the last 50 years would be for my wife Cathie and me.

    Like you, I did not want to abruptly burn my bridges so it has been taking a while weening everyone, including myself, away from my 24/7 Lifeside Assistance lifestyle to one more personal and peaceful.

    I hope that I can get into your classes before you close them out. But, if not, I will always be a fan of your work and sites, and ever grateful for the opportunity to grow with you in your online journey.

    Should we never meet you will ever be in my thoughts, prayers, and heart as a very real, loving, and precious friend.

  23. Holly,

    That is one huge step and I fully understand where you are coming from. After 33 years of working in highway construction I retired. I didn’t know what to do for a short time and my system still reacts to good weather and summer by going on long hours and night-owl time frame. You are right, you aren’t getting younger and you need to follow your passion. I’m so glad I took and have your courses to go back to. I haven’t given up on my dream to write and I still work at it from time to time.

    Your hours were too brutal to meet the obligations you set for yourself. Your health told you that. I’m glad to see you set the end of the tunnel and made the decision to follow your true passion. I would rather read your stories any day of the week.

    Be well and take care of yourself first.

  24. A wise choice, Holly. You’re not abandoning anyone. You’re blazing a trail we can choose to follow. And you’ve already provided us with detailed maps with the best watering holes marked.

    Thank you for sharing your passion, and thank you for setting an example of reaching for your bliss rather than settling for what’s accepted and expected.

    Best of luck in all you do!

  25. I respect your decision 100% and wish you all the luck and writing passion in the world. I feel so lucky to be a HTTS student and therefore lifelong member of your course. You have helped me tremendously.

    Good luck! Happy Writing!

  26. You’ve already produced so much teaching material that I’m not sure if I’m ever going to work through it all. Thanks for that =) You’ve done more to help all of us out than probably anyone else ever will.

    The Secret Texts were among the very first eBooks I ever read. I’m looking forward to reading more of your fiction.

  27. I’m sixty and I’ve been teaching computing for near enough 24 years. I do it very well, but I have stories to tell and like you I don’t know how much time is left to me. Unlike you I have no track record but on and off over the last 15 years have looked towards you for inspiration and I still do. Give us more tales.

  28. That sounds sensible. We have a limited time on this planet, and it’s crazy to spend it not doing the things we care most about.

    I know we all have to earn a living, but the advice, “Do what you love and the money will follow,” is true.

    (Though I am grateful you wrote that website with all the advice, as I found it really helpful when I started writing.)

  29. Holly, I think it’s fantastic that you’re going to do what YOU want and need to do–write! Tell stories! It’s so important to follow our dreams, our passions, and you’re doing it! I’m glad!

    Take good care,

  30. I, too, had a wakeup call from Steve Job’s death. And for me, it also means refocusing where I’m going. So I wish you good luck, as I know that trying to walk more than one path is not easy. :)

  31. Good on ya, Holly, and best wishes. I have a very personal understanding of what you mean. I wish I had your courage.

  32. Holly, I haven’t even yet finished reading this, and I have to tell you this: I love you.

    You’ve been a steady inspiration for me, with your energy and your passion, since I’ve known you. That you’re now going back to doing what makes you truly you… is just brilliant. And I applaud you.

    I wish you the very, very best of luck, with everything you do. You so deserve it.

    All best wishes. Really. *All* best wishes.

  33. Good for you, Holly. Thanks for all the writing tips, and good luck on the new, simpler phase of your life. I’m sure it will be rewarding.

  34. Hey, Holly. I’ve never got to take your courses – no money – so I probably won’t get to, but I wanted to say what an amazing person I think you are. Thank you so much for everything you gave and I hope you enjoy the writing.

    In the immortal words of Douglas Adams, So long and thanks for all the fish. :D

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>