Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What I Wish My Crystal Ball Had Shown Me

I do some of my best thinking when I’m walking (or in the shower or just waking up in the morning).  This past Sunday—my birthday—was no different.  As I chugged around the paths without my iPod to entertain me, I started pondering all the things I wish I would have known before they’d happened.  Not that I’d want a magical black dress like the one in Little Black Dress that gives its wearers glimpses of the future—both good and bad—but it would’ve made for a lot less worrying if I’d been able to foresee just a few bits and pieces.  Perhaps I could have handled myself better in uncomfortable situations and faced uncertainty with more confidence.

So without further ado, some of the things I wish I'd known back when:

1.  I would have appreciated hearing that, after I got out of college and wrote a book a year for ten years (all of them now stored in my linen closet!), someday I would indeed be writing full-time and have my fair share of deadlines.  It would’ve saved me the trouble of dealing with naysayers who, at the oddest times—like at my grandmother’s funeral—would approach and ask, “You’re not still writing, are you?  When are you going to hang it up?”  I could have just given them the finger and walked away.  Instead, I only gave them the finger in my head, which is not quite as satisfying.

2.  It would have been rather comforting to know that it never gets easier.  Writing novels, I mean.  Every one takes something out of me, and every one begs to be written a bit differently.  So as much as I learn from finishing (and revising) each manuscript, I always feel like a rookie, starting from scratch with each subsequent book.  

3.  Right out of college, when I thought going blond was a great idea, I would have appreciated a heads-up that no, it doesn’t look good on everyone, especially when your eyebrows are a really dark brown and your also dark-brown roots grow in really fast.  I could have saved a lot of money and time on hair appointments. Although that dark roots/light hair look is pretty popular these days. I should have hung in there for a few more decades!  (Not.)

4.  When I was in my 30s and still single, I would’ve loved to see a glimpse of my future and know that I would be 41-years-old before I met Ed, my husband. Then I would have been even more amused by the whispers and speculation of nosy family members, one of whom dared to inquire, “Are you a lesbian?  ‘Cause if you are, that’s okay.” I told him thank you for that vote of support, but I wasn’t a lesbian, just a happily single woman who hadn’t met a man worth my undying commitment.

5.  While it would not have made my life easier to be forewarned that I was going to have breast cancer at 42, I sure would’ve loved to have my crystal ball show me that, nearly five years after my diagnosis, I would be happy, healthy (knock on wood!), and still complaining about deadlines ad nauseum.

6.  For most of my life, I avoided veggies. To me, Snickers was a vegetable.  I was convinced that anything green was awful-tasting, akin to eating grass.  When I was 40, I went on a get-healthy kick, and I realized vegetables are AWESOME.  I am, in fact, a broccoli addict.  So if I’d put on that magical black dress at, say, twenty-five and had a vision of myself eating mostly vegetarian in another 15 years, I don’t figure I would have believed it.

Well, since I didn’t know any of this ahead of time, I had to bumble along and figure it out for myself.  Though I guess part of what makes life so interesting is muddling through and being able to look back with perfect hindsight! 

What things in your writing life or real life do you wish a crystal ball could have shown you?  Would it have changed anything?

Susan McBride is the author of Little Black Dress, a "Recommended Read" at Target Stores.  She has also written The Cougar Club, a Target "Bookmarked Breakout" title and one of MORE Magazine's "Books We're Buzzing About."  For more scoop, visit SusanMcBride.com or find her on Facebook.


  1. Great post, Susan. Honestly, I doubt I would have believed the crystal ball. Lately, my life is a long list of, "Things I Never Thought I Would Say."

  2. Such a fabulous post, Susan! I loved it, and I'm so with you on that second one -- writing novels doesn't ever get easier. So much work, every time...and just different enough to make me wonder if I'm a newbie again.

    And YAY on 5 years of being healthy!

    This line, of course, is proof that you're a sister of my heart: "To me, Snickers was a vegetable." Wait...you're saying it isn't?! xo

  3. Insightful and honest post, Susan. Every time I hear you talk about Ed, I think: There's a book in there somewhere... And, yes, I do believe every book takes a chunk out of you. Some days that very thought gets me out of bed, "Just one more book, and I won't have to do this anymore, because there won't be anything of me left!"

  4. Oh, Susan, this entire post makes me smile . . . and nod in agreement. I've come to believe though, that not only do I not want to know what's ahead for me, I also wouldn't have changed a thing--because it's never just one little change; everything is related.

  5. Love this post! This is the sort of thing I think about all the time. But I tend to agree with Judy-- if we'd changed things, who knows if we would have ended up where we are now?!

  6. What a fun post! Like you I didn't meet my husband until I was 40 and had given upon ever getting married. Just turns out I had to wait for the most amazing guy ever. I always think of that song, "God Bless the broken road that led me straight to you."

    It's a good thing I couldn't see into the future because if I knew if my 20s how long I'd be single I would have freaked out.

  7. Loved this post, Susan. Sometimes I think it's good we don't know what's coming in the future. It can be comforting, but knowing myself, I would hardly think about the good stuff and worry obsessively about the negative things!

  8. Thanks, Christa! You're right, I probably wouldn't have believed the crystal ball either. It's so funny when we look back how many things that seemed awful paved the way for something interesting to happen!

    Marilyn, I thought that if I ate a Snickers a day (and sometimes a pint of Ben & Jerry's chocolate chip cookie dough), I was getting all the nutrients I needed. Go figure. ;-)

    Laura, there is a book in there somewhere! I just have to find it. (Or maybe it's so obvious that I'm missing the forest for the trees.) Yeah, writing takes a lot out of us. How we get the energy to keep doing it boggles the brain. Scientists need to study us, I think.

    Brenda and Judy, you're so right! I look back often and realize it's like dominoes falling. If this thing didn't happen then this next thing wouldn't have happened...and so on. So I'm with you. I don't think I'd want to really know or change anything!

    Karin! "God Bless the broken road that led me straight to you" is THE song I think of when I understand how much had to happen for me to meet Ed. That's so funny. I didn't know you were 40 before you met your amazing dude, too! Definitely worth the wait. :-)

    Sara, I would do that, too!

  9. I may have had less angst during my dating years if I had known it was possible to be "a happily single woman who hadn’t met a man worth my undying commitment." (not that I've given up on the possibility, but it's nice not to worry about it.
    I'm with you on the vegetables, learning to really love my CSA veggies, fresh and grown without chemicals -- they just taste better!

  10. Susan - some things are better when you don't know them ahead of time. But, yes, I wish I hadn't panicked the night before I turned 20, thinking I was so old! :)

    And I have to say, I'm reading "Little Black Dress" and it is brilliantly written!

    Great post - lol on the blonde hair, kudos on finding Mr. Right and hugs on the cancer. Wow! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Great Post!

    SO MANY THINGS turned out unexpectedly and I am uncertain I would have believed even the crystal ball.

    A Midwestern Attorney-Happily Childless-In Chicago ends up a Full-Time Writer-Mother of Two-In Los Angeles?

    So not what I planned.

    Makes me wonder what will happen in the next 20 years.

  12. Mary, enjoy those organic veggies! (I just had some as a matter of fact--yum!) And, yes, I think being a "happily single woman who hasn't met a man worth her undying commitment" is something not well understood--or accepted. It seemed to make my family crazier than me. ;-)

    Kathy, hearing you say that about LBD tickles me pink! Thanks for that. :-) Can you even imagine now feeling like 20 is old? Oh, man! I'm not sure I even know what I think is old any more. Whatever's 20 years ahead of me, I guess!

    Maggie, ain't that the truth!!! Life is certainly an interesting (and surprising) journey. :-)

  13. Great post Susan. A crystal ball would be nice, but knowing me, I would forget what it showed me and go along my merry way. Sieve brain you know!
    I wouldn't have believed it would tell me I would be widowed by the age of 45 and start a new career by 50 and then start a new career at 60. Ah well, live and learn as I say.

  14. My goodness, Juanita! I can see why you wouldn't have believed the crystal ball. I'm no fortune teller, but I'm envisioning only good things coming your way from now on!

  15. I wish my Crystal Ball had told me to work on my social skills a bit more. I'd always planned to be a writer, but had no idea how much I would need them!

  16. I wish a Crystal Ball would have told me not to waste close to 10 years on a man who was unworthy of me. But I guess that's what your 20s (and early 30s) are for. :-) Great post!

  17. I do not have a crystal ball, what I have is a magic eight ball and it works sometimes when I ask the right question hahaha