This week, I’ve been ruminating on how I became a writer, editor, and writing instructor. If you’d known me 30 years ago, you’d be shocked, too. Not that I didn’t always want to be a writer—I did. But I had pretty low self-esteem back in high school, so I didn’t think I had the talent to do it. Instead, I had other (I thought easier) plans. Here’s a little rundown of my plans and their results since college.
Plan: To major in journalism. Result: Graduated with honors. How my plan worked out: Felt like a poser for four years. What I learned: That I could write, and that I had an affinity for editing.
Plan: To learn marketing and PR and work in corporate America. Result: Got a job at a software company. How my plan worked out: Quit to move to Oklahoma. What I learned: marketing and PR, and that I hated working in corporate America.
Plan: To be an Arbonne VP and drive a snazzy white Mercedes. Result: Not even close. How my plan worked out: Quit to focus on home schooling. What I learned: sales—and how bad I was at it; how to speak to a group.
Plan: To teach home school classes and home school my kids through high school. Result: Taught classes to older kids and schooled my kids at home. How my plan worked out: After seven years, we put the kids in school. What I learned: how to teach; how much I loved teaching.
Plan: To become a NYT bestselling author. (Stop laughing, Pegg.) Result: Ten books written, eight still unpublished. How my plan worked out: Still working on it. What I learned: How to write, how to critique, how to edit.
Plan: To edit novels. Result: Opened my business a year ago. How my plan worked out: My business is going strong. What I learned: That perhaps I never gave myself enough credit.
Plan: To teach writing to aspiring and current novelists. Result: People actually want to learn what I have to teach. How my plan worked out: Slowly, I’m growing a teaching ministry. What I learned: That God knows what He’s doing.
I look back on this list and laugh, because it all seemed so random to me at the time, like a jumble of puzzle pieces that went to different puzzles. I stumbled from one unsuitable path to another. What was the point in a journalism degree for someone destined to work in marketing? What was the point of teaching all those home school classes to middle and high school students if I were just going to send my kids to school before they ever got there? What was the point in failing at that Arbonne career?
But now I realize that God had a plan all along. I use what I learned in college every day. I use the marketing and PR skills I learned to spread the word about my business and my books. I learned how to deal with rejection when I sold Arbonne, and boy, have I had a lot of rejection since I started writing. All that experience teaching—I use it all the time. The hours I spent critiquing others’ work, I was honing my fiction editing skills. And this doesn’t begin to cover the life experiences I’ve had, many of which have shown up in my novels. There were so many times I felt like a failure, but I hadn’t failed at all. Rather, I learned what God wanted me to learn, and then I moved on.
God had a plan all along, and in my short-sightedness, with all my faults and failures, I still managed to end up here, and I have no doubt this is right where He wants me. Since I’m still breathing by His grace, this isn’t the end of my story. He must have more for me in the future, and I look forward to it. I still make plans, but now I know that however they turn out, God’s got this.
How about you? Can you look back over the course of your life and see God’s fingerprints on what you thought were failures?
Do you want to share your plans and results with us?
Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband and three teenagers. She is the author of two