#1 Amazon Bestseller Women’s Personal Growth!
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Download the free Never Too Late workbook here.
Wondering how to get to that life you really thought you’d be living by now? Finally ready to dig up that buried dream? Still trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up?
Never Too Late speaks to real women—our fears and obstacles and hopes and desires—and gives us cutting edge tools to get where we want to go. Bursting with inspiration, insider stories, and practical strategies. Filled with humor, heart, encouragement, and great quotes. You’ll hop on a plane with me as you figure out the road to your own reinvention.
Claire shares her stories, successes, and failures, as well as those of other reinventors, plus tips for getting a plan, staying on track, pulling together a support system, building your platform in the age of social networking, dealing with the inevitable ups and downs, overcoming perfectionism, and tuning in to your authentic self to propel you toward your goals.
A little bit memoir, a lot inspiration, Never Too Late is real, grounded, and just the book you need to start reinventing your life.
“To fellow writers, I cannot recommend this book highly enough, as the advice will really hit home and be beyond beneficial. To anyone else, it is still an incredibly important read—the pointers and inspiration can be applied to any field, dream, or crossroads in life. It is the kind of book you will return to again and again, and Claire Cook is the kind of writer you will only want more from.”—Stephanie Burns, BookPerfume.com
“Never Too Late is the perfect book for readers who love Claire Cook’s books and wonder how she got to be such a successful author. But the real purpose and accomplishment of the book is the inspiration it provides and the fascinating and amazingly helpful strategies and methods she presents for any women (‘and a few good men’) who really want to achieve what they’ve only dreamed of. The book is about change and opportunity—and how to grab them.”—Pamela Kramer, National Book Reviewer, Examiner.com
“Never Too Late resonated with me on a level that I didn’t expect. Still at this moment, I am reviewing all the notes that I took while reading the book.”—Victoria Colotta, artbookscoffee.com
“If you need a personal cheerleader to help you along your road to reinvention, then I highly recommend this book.”—Looking on the Sunnyside
“It’s a thought-provoking, inspiring book. If you’ve thought about changing your career and following your passion, Cook’s book just might provide the needed push.”—Lesa’s Book Critiques
© 2014 Claire Cook. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention (without getting lost along the way)
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”—George Eliot
Reinvention is the theme of my novels. It’s the story of my life. Or at least my midlife. Wherever I go and whatever I do—workshops, women’s conferences, book events, interviews, visits with friends—it’s pretty much what we end up talking about.
I certainly never set out to try to become the mother of reinvention, as a former editor used to call me in a twist on that old band from the ’60s, The Mothers of Invention. In fact, it feels more like we’re all in this together, muddling along as we try to figure out how to get to that life we really thought we’d be living by now. Perhaps the best thing I have to offer is that I made every mistake in the book and came so incredibly close to never dusting off that buried dream of mine. And now here I am, living the life I almost missed.
Over the course of eleven novels and fourteen years, I’ve cheered on lots of other women (and a few good men), sharing everything I can think of that might help them in their own reinventions. And I’ve been lucky enough to hear some incredible reinvention stories, too. Passed them along. Watched them inspire others just when they needed it.
On this particular trip, as I land at the Cancún airport, wade through Mexican customs, climb into a waiting shuttle van, and ride a ferry northeast through turquoise Caribbean ocean to beautiful Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) to give the keynote (on reinvention!) at an annual International Women’s Day weekend conference called We Move Forward, it hits me.
Even if I travel and travel and travel, I might never meet you in person. I think it’s time to share my journey with you anyway, in hopes that it might help you with your own.
I bump my seriously over-packed suitcase down the ramp and step onto the island of women, ready to soak up the sunshine and stories.
We’re all different—our goals and styles and personalities. So if something I say in the pages that follow doesn’t resonate for you, ignore it. Turn the page, paper or virtual. Move on.
But if it provokes a strong negative reaction—that Claire Cook has no idea what she’s talking about or that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard—or if it just really pisses you off, write it down before you move on. Bookmark it. Highlight it. Mark it with a Post-It.
In a week or two, go back and take another look. I don’t know about you, but sometimes what I really, really need to hear to get where I’m going is the hardest thing to hear, the thing that initially infuriates me the most.
ROADMAP TO THE STARS
If there were a roadmap to success, we’d all be following it. We’d have it saved on our GPS or made into a poster hanging over our bed. Every book would be a bestseller, every movie would be a mega hit, every blog would have a gazillion followers, every restaurant would have a line snaking out to the street.
There are people who will give you bullet points, action plans, absolute secrets to success. But the truth as I see it is that nobody really knows. What works for you might not work for me. What works tomorrow might not work the next year, or even the next day. If it were easy to be successful, we’d all be doing it.
So you have to create your own roadmap. You have to designate your starting point, figure out your destination, work around the inevitable detours and potholes and traffic jams. You have to stay on the road, even if you don’t feel like it. Even if you really need to pee.
It’s a huge leap of faith. It’s a ton of work.
But it feels awesome when you get there.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary presents a range of possibilities when it defines reinvent: “to make major changes or improvements to (something) . . . to present (something) in a different or new way . . . to remake or redo completely . . . to bring into use again.”
So make yours a massive, earth-shattering change. Or just the perfect tweak to your existing life. It’s your reinvention and you can do it any way you want to.
I’ve known I was a writer since I was three. I was one of eight kids, and when you grow up in those great big families, you desperately want something that’s just yours to make you feel special, to separate you from the pack. I grabbed writer.
My mother entered me in a contest to name the Fizzies whale, and I won in my age group. It’s quite possible that mine was the only entry in the three-and-under category, since Cutie Fizz was enough to win my family a six-month supply of Fizzies tablets (root beer was the best flavor) and half a dozen white plastic whale-embellished mugs with turquoise removable handles. (Completely off-topic, but I would give anything to find those mugs again. If you ever see them on eBay or at a yard/garage/tag sale, please let me know!)
When I was six, my first story was published in the Little People’s Page in the Sunday paper (about Hot Dog, the family dachshund, even though we had a beagle at the time, the first clue that I’d be a novelist and not a journalist) and at sixteen I had my first front-page feature in the local weekly. I also wrote really bad poetry in high school that I thought was so profound—yep, I was that girl. I majored in film and creative writing in college, studying with some big name writers who gave me lots of positive feedback.
I’d been on this writing road for most of my short life, and it seemed like a straight shot to my destination. I fully expected that the day after graduation, I would go into labor and a brilliant novel would emerge, fully formed, like giving birth.
It didn’t happen. Instead, I choked. I panicked. I guess I’d learned how to write, but I didn’t know what to write. I felt like an imposter. So, despite all expectations, especially mine, I didn’t write much of anything over the next couple decades. Even the prospect of writing a thank-you note would throw me into full-blown anxiety mode. (If I still owe you one from way back then, sorry.)
Hindsight 20/20, I can see that I just hadn’t found my stories yet. I write about real women—their quirky lives, their crazy families and friendships and relationships, what they want and what’s keeping them from getting it. I simply needed to live more of my own life before I could accumulate enough experience to write my novels. If I could give my younger self some really good advice, it would be not to beat myself up for the next twenty years.
But I did. Most of the time I felt a low-grade kind of angst about not living up to my potential. I did my best to ignore it, but sometimes it would bubble up and I’d feel gut-wrenchingly awful. I tried my hardest to bury the feelings, to forget about my dream.
But it never went away. Writing a novel remained the thing I wanted to do more than anything else in the whole wide world, as well as the thing I was most afraid of.
So I did some other creative things. I wrote shoe ads for an in house advertising department for five weeks right out of college, became continuity director of a local radio station for a year or two, taught aerobics and did some choreography, worked as a bartender, helped a friend with landscape design, wrote a few freelance magazine pieces, took some more detours.
Eventually, I had two children and followed them to their artsy little school as a teacher. I meant to stay for a year or two, but somehow I stayed for sixteen. Sixteen years. I taught everything from multicultural games and dance to open ocean rowing to creative writing. I loved the kids and even won the Massachusetts Governor’s Fitness Award for innovative programming. But all along I was hiding from my true passion, the thing I was born to do.
And then one day, propelled by the fierce, unrelenting energy of midlife, the dream burst to the surface again. I was in my forties, sitting with a group of swim moms (and a few good dads) at 5:30 A.M. My daughter was swimming back and forth and back and forth on the other side of a huge glass window during the first of two daily practices that bracketed her school day and my workday as a teacher.
The parental conversation in the wee hours of that morning, as we sat bleary-eyed, cradling our Styrofoam cups of coffee and watching our kids, was all about training and form and speed, who was coming on at the perfect time, who was in danger of peaking before championships, even who just might have a shot at Olympic trial times.
In my mind, I stepped back and listened. Whoa, I thought, we really need to get a life.
And right at that moment it hit me with the force of a poolside tidal wave that I was the one who needed to get a life. A new one, the one I’d meant to have all along. I was not getting any younger, and I was in serious danger of living out my days without ever once going for it. Without even trying to achieve my lifelong dream of writing a novel. Suddenly, not writing a book became more painful than pushing past all that fear and procrastination and actually writing it.
So, for the next six months, through one long cold New England winter and into the spring, I wrote a draft of my first novel, sitting in my minivan outside my daughter’s swim practice. It sold to the first publisher who asked to read it. Lots of terrific books by talented authors take a long time to sell, so maybe I got lucky. I’ve also considered that perhaps if you procrastinate as long as I did, you get to skip some of the awful stages on the path to wherever it is you’re going and just cut to the chase.
But another way to look at it is that there were only three things standing in my way all those years: me, myself and I.
My first novel, Ready to Fall, was published when I was forty-five. At fifty, I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the movie adaptation of my second novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. I’m now an actual bestselling author of a whole bunch of novels. Not many days go by that I don’t take a deep breath and remind myself that this is the career I almost didn’t have.
I think we all have that sweet spot—the place where the life we want to live and our ability intersect. For some, the trick is finding it. If you’re one of those people, you’re still trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up—at thirty, at fifty, at seventy.
For others, like me, deep down inside you already know what you want, so it’s about finding the courage to dig up that dream and dust it off. It’s not too late. Dreams don’t have an expiration date. Not even a best by date. If it’s still your dream, it’s still your dream.
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