Reinvention

People often talk about reinventing themselves. On a practical level changing careers, starting a family, retiring, going back to school, and many other common—if life-changing—experiences are forms of reinvention. Women seem especially adept at reinvention. Perhaps it’s just that traditionally women lead lives with many moving parts and the work/career part is periodically in flux? Whatever the reason, I’ve observed that most of my women friends and family have undergone one, two or more reinventions in their work life. I’ve known more than a few men who’ve gone through a purposeful career reinvention, but not a chain of metamorphoses. The one, big change has been a singular life experience.

I’m not sure why this seems so much harder for men? Fiction is full of men chucking their conventional life to run away to become an artist (inn keeper, deep sea diver, wine maker, etc.) only to find that their original career follows them wherever they land. Perhaps I read too many mystery novels with male protagonists who are never entirely free of their pasts as detectives, lawyers, spies, assassins, soldiers, politicians and more?

Or, maybe, the personal identities of men, in both fiction and reality, are tied tight to their career description and it’s harder to shake off one self-image and inhabit the next?

In fiction, the storyteller can set the bar high for a character’s tolerance for change. But when you are aiming for credibility in the form of integrity of character, it’s hard to allow a character’s internal compass to make a radical switch.

Can the loyal family man, longtime bank employee, Sunday school teacher, and soccer coach, transform into the dashing jewel thief with a gorgeous sidekick and a new identity? Sure, but only if the seeds of this crazy life switch are planted in his first incarnation. The double lives of spies in suspense fiction have always fascinated me. The cover life is “too ordinary” and the secret life is often over-the-top. But that’s what we love about spies.

Reinvention has been on my mind for a while. I’ve had a few reinventions in my career as a writer and plan to focus more on fiction going forward. But writing is writing is writing and, alas, I have no talent, ambition, daydream, or skills that would make me anything other than a writer. I guess I just have to incorporate the yen for reinvention into the lives of my characters.

While Gauguin ran off to paradise to paint, Rousseau’s tropics were imaginary.

Comments

  1. Reinvention is an odd thing. It seems to imply a choice, but I know for myself, each career change has been equal parts choice and ‘push’.
    I wonder if we women simply get pushed more often, or harder?
    I know I’m the same person inside that I was 20 years ago, and yet since then, I’ve done things I would never have believed possible.
    I’m glad you’re going to focus on fiction. Maybe you too just needed a push. -hugs-

    • Candy Korman

      I did need a push and I’m blogging about that PUSH very soon.

      Perhaps you’re right and the reinventions are more out of necessity, as in “necessity is the mother of invention”? But I also think there are elements of choice. Do you stay in the stale job situation or apply for a new one? Do you continue to freelance for an organization with a reprehensible mandate or a client that treats freelancers badly? If you don’t continue, what do you risk? And if it’s possible to replace the bad client with a good one, how do you choose to effect that change?

      I know too many people in real life who get stuck. They hate what they do for a living and yet they don’t want to make the choices—or take the risks—inherent in making a change. I’m getting older and so are many of my friends. The subject of retirement might as well be a trip to Mars as it is completely out of my current world view, but some of my friends with more conventional work lives are considering their options. Some include escapes from current corporate lives and a riskier safe haven in a new path with more control or more excitement or more intellectual stimulation… It’s interesting.

      In fiction, the reinventions are often dramatic and are played for comedy. The banker turned inn keeper… The fun part of being a writer is that we can, and do, inhabit our characters and experience a bit of their lives!

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