The Woman Who Quit
This is The Story… of one woman who became famous for what she tried to quit. Along the way, she inspired millions of people to learn more about science, space, technology, and time. It’s also how she got a vital message to millions of children and adults.
And now… onto The Story
The young girl knew her father was dying.
She was only seventeen, but there were so many things she wanted to tell him. There were so many questions she and her family members had that she wished he would answer.
Her father’s alcoholism was something her family didn’t want to face. The only people in the family who acknowledged it were the young girl and her mother. At this point, the girl had forgiven her father for it. After all, she had no idea what he’d gone through in World War I. He never talked about it, and her imagination was powerful enough to imagine why he didn’t.
Instead of bringing up the root cause of her father’s problems, the young girl led the family on a diversion. She knew the rest of her family wasn’t strong enough to face the truth. Their once great father was now in so much pain that he was numbing and killing himself with alcohol. In those days, post-traumatic stress and a damaged or swollen amygdala weren’t understood by the medical community. There was no help for suffering veterans. Instead, the nation chose to label veterans with trouble as those with “shell shock”. Those with shell shock liked to drink, and that was that.
But this young girl wasn’t content to just slap societies label on her father. She believed in redemption. And in such a dark world, you might think this was a blessing… or a horrible curse.
On top of it, she had developed the skill of storytelling. For her, it was easy to create an elaborate story about her father, and then sell her entire family on it. Her family didn’t want the truth, so instead, she told them a story they could handle- that their father had inhaled too much mustard gas in the war.
The family tried to help their father get healthy by moving to the countryside. But he only got worse. The isolation became another excuse of his to drink even more.
All of this flashed through the young girl’s mind. It was a big day for her. She was returning home from boarding school.
As she arrived home and walked up to the house, she noticed the porch was crowded with family members. A few of them were crying as she approached, and she already knew. Her father was dead.
She arrived too late. He was gone, and with it went all hope of revitalizing her family and redeeming his potential. What should have been a happy reunion at her family’s gorgeous country home was plagued by sadness.
Years passed, the young girl grew up, and she fell into a deep, decade-long depression.
As a child, her teachers had labeled her “stupid”. Now that she was on her own in the real-world, she met dozens of new people. Most of them thought she was stupid, too. Crushed by her father’s death and battling her own depression, she accepted the label.
In her mid-twenties, the fog of depression briefly lifted. The girl decided to stop trying to be somebody she wasn’t. She stopped putting on an act to impress people who already thought she was stupid. Instead, she decided to do her own thing, and do what came naturally to her… write. She already had plenty of real world practice. She started journaling when she was eight years old. When she was a teenager, she completed her first novel. It was embarrassing, but still… she finished her first novel!
A decade later, she finished another novel. This one caught the attention of a major publisher. They offered to buy the novel, and she said yes. To her, it was painfully obvious that the novel was a simple memoir of her life from ages 10–19. But somehow, nobody else seemed to notice or care, and a publisher bought the rights.
She’d written a romance story into her novel, and to her shock, it began to come true. She met a man similar to the one she’d created in her book. Soon after, they got married and began having children. For a time, she entered a joyous season of life, and the struggles of her past melted away. Her husband was a play and television actor, and the two of them were able to afford a small house in the countryside. They had their first child, and another one followed soon after.
Tragedy struck close to her again when her and her husband’s best friends were killed in a car crash. The couple had a single child, and she and her husband stepped up and adopted her.
Money became tight for their growing family, so she and her husband teamed up and bought a small country store. They ran it and were living the dream they created. Their work was honest, and their children were happy. The couple was the post World War II dream of a better future.
But all wasn’t well in the woman’s mind. Her first novel had never taken off, and it irritated her that it was only a memoir. Now the publisher thought of her as a memoir writer and was refusing her new pitches.
She wanted to write fiction, to create novels and series that spanned generations. She wanted to explore concepts like the nature of space and time, along with individual and familial redemption. She wanted to explore the potential for human knowledge through fiction. The ideas for stories that were brewing in her head weren’t modest. They were staggering ideas of a genius. Some of them even possessed the potential to shake the foundations of science. Had any of the people who first labeled her “stupid” been able to fathom her ideas, they would have gone into shock. Truly stupid people tend to call isolated geniuses stupid. But now, the woman wasn’t isolated. She had a family, a husband, a business, and a support system. All of which are a massive help for a budding artist.
Despite the support system, the demands of it and parenting were overwhelming. She had turned forty years old and hadn’t yet had the success she wanted with her writing. The general store she and her husband owned wasn’t making enough money.
Fall turned into winter, and then Christmas passed.
On New Year’s Eve, the woman stopped to pause and reflect on her year. She usually took the time to set goals for herself. But this New Year’s Eve, she was so frustrated that instead of listing her goals… she created just one goal. Her goal for the coming year was to quit writing. It was too painful. Later, she would look back on it and say:
“All during the decade of my thirties I went through spasms of guilt because I spent so much time writing, because I wasn’t like a good New England housewife and mother. When I scrubbed the kitchen floor, the family cheered. I couldn’t make decent pie crust. . . . And with all the hours I spent writing, I was still not pulling my own weight financially.”
Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe it. She had new ideas and books she was developing. But when she submitted them to publishers, she consistently got rejections.
Helping to raise her children took up most of her time. Living in the country was lonely, and she missed her friends that had been killed in the car accident.
She was grateful that they had stepped up and adopted their friends’ daughter who had been orphaned. The young girl was a blessing, but also a challenging reminder of her friend’s early death.
On the day she decided to give up writing, she covered up her typewriter. Instead, she turned her focus to becoming a better mother and wife.
Her writing stopped. But her ideas didn’t. They only intensified.
It was the end of January, and right at the time where most people quit their New Years resolution. So she quit. She decided that she didn’t care if she didn’t have a high level of talent. She didn’t care if she ever had another book published. Even if she would never be a successful writer, the pain of not writing outweighed the pain and possibility of failure.
Like many of her goals that she set before, she failed. She tried to quit writing but couldn’t stop.
She knew she was at a critical juncture in her life. If she kept pushing forward, it was quite possible that she would fail, and that everyone around her would watch her fail. The thought of it put her stomach in knots.
But what if she continued to write and eventually caught a lucky break? The fleeting glimpse at what success might be like was intoxicating.
She threw the cover off her typewriter and got to work.
Soon, the words were flowing. New ideas emerged and were taking form in the story of Meg, a girl who was surrounded by people who didn’t think she was very bright. On top of that, Meg’s father had gone missing, the adults had stopped trying to find him.
So Meg and her brother decide to begin the search on their own.
That year she decided to keep writing, she faced the final battle with depression. Like a monster, it had been stalking her, limiting, and keeping her silent her whole life. She kept pushing forward, finished the year with a completed novel.
The novel was considered crazy by most people that glanced at it.
It was a science fiction inspired exploration of space, time, and love. Nobody took it seriously.
She shopped the novel to publishing houses and stacked up over 40 rejection notices.
It wasn’t that surprising. After all, the novel explored Quantum physics and presented young characters fighting evil. On top of it, her book was one of the first science fiction books to present a female protagonist as the heroine. Moreover, the heroine wasn’t an invincible superhero, but rather a normal girl who decided to become more than normal. This heroine used her intellect, science, and faith to save her family. Instead of the normal petty sibling fights and quarrels, this female heroine teamed up with her siblings to save the world.
To say these ideas were unnerving to the male-dominated world of publishing would be an understatement. The 40 no’s she received weighed heavily on her, and soon she gave up trying to sell the book. Exhaustion and the demands of motherhood crept in, and she took a break.
Her first act after giving up was to throw her mother a tea party. At the party, she reveled in the delight on her mother’s face at all the work she’d put into it. The woman who couldn’t quit writing did her best to be present and entertained each of her mother’s guests. Late in the day, she met a guest who had heard she was a writer. He was a publisher, but unlike the other men she had met, he didn’t seem threatened by her book idea. Instead, he was fascinated. He’d never met an author like this, who had a novel with a plot and characters that were so original!
He asked to read a manuscript of her book. She agreed, provided him a copy, and the party ended.
The days passed, and soon it was time for a new kind of celebration.
The woman received a letter from the publisher that said they’d love to publish the book. Her book was published in 1962 and soon began to take off around the world.
Lucky for us, the woman’s goal to quit writing failed.
That woman was Madeleine L’Engle, and that book was A Wrinkle in Time. It is the first book in the series that explores reality, space, time, and provides young people with a daunting challenge.
That challenge is that evil is alive and well in the world. You have a mission: protect yourself, your family and friends, and work to fight evil in all its forms.
Not only does the Wrinkle in Time series propose that challenge, but it offers up messages that are pretty deep…
In the words of one genius, the universe is stranger than we can suppose. This isn’t a call for apathy, or to tap out… Instead, it’s a call to action. Just how much power can you develop to build, shape, direct, and mold your reality?
Madeleine L’Engle went on to write four books in the Wrinkle in Time Series. After the series, she would write and publish more novels. While doing it all, she maintained a happy marriage and raised a healthy family. She couldn’t redeem her father and certain family members, but she created the family and life that she always knew was possible. She was a genius, a pioneer, and a role model for women (and men) across all space and time.
That’s her story, what’s yours going to be?
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