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Midlife Transformation:
My Journey to Publishing My First Book, The Money Maker

Dan Sizemore Photo
In early 2012, Midlifer Dan Sizemore published his first novel The Money Maker.

I am 51 years old, and I have come to the realization that at this point in my life, I don’t have time to waste.

I remember vividly the conversation I had with a childhood friend four years ago who was dying of cancer. He said he couldn’t believe how many people sleepwalk through life. That comment has stayed with me, and I have a new sense of urgency that I didn’t have before.

Stay-at-Home Dad, Middle Age and Finding My Space

I never intended to have a mid-life transformation, but I also never thought I’d be a full-time stay-at-home dad, either. After a 17 year career in Virginia running an insurance agency, my wife got a wonderful opportunity with her company to move to Jacksonville. The deal my wife and I struck was that after a few years, I would get a job and then she could let her job take a back seat. That was 10 years ago, and I’m still a stay-at-home dad. Where did the last 10 years go?

Being a stay-at-home dad definitely has its advantages. I get to see much more of my kids than most dads ever will. I have two girls ages 14 and 15, and they are great kids. I’d like to think I had a hand in how they turned out.

Most guys drool when I tell them I’m a stay-at-home dad. They envision sleeping in and playing golf every day while enjoying a life of ease. While I certainly do have more free time than most men, the grass is not always greener. Doing laundry and grocery shopping, cooking, yard work, and doing dishes gets a bit old. Almost all of the guys I know work, so it’s not like I have a group of guys to hang with every day. I spend a good deal of time alone.

I remember one of my wife’s co-workers asked me once what I had been up to. I said something like “I just cleaned our house and I’ve been driving the kids to soccer practice.” She had such an important, busy job, and I was embarrassed that I had nothing to tell her about my life.

I began to look with envy at my college newsletters with articles of my classmates’ achievements. What did I have to tell about myself? I could see the headline in my college newsletter, “Sizemore perfects art of cleaning toilets.”

Becoming a Writer

A few years ago I had an idea for a book and started writing on a yellow legal pad. I was bored and looking to fill some dead time, but I got excited about my idea.

I think my main impetus for writing was that I finally had something that I was excited about and could call my own. I had never written anything before, but I had what I thought was a great idea for a movie. I didn’t know how to write a film script, but I thought I could write a book. I had a previous frustrating foray into network marketing, so I decided to write a satirical comedy about it called The Money Maker.

I started envisioning what actors would play in the movie adaptation of my book, and my imagination ran wild. My favorite part of writing was creating the scenes in the book that I thought were funny. I wrote to entertain myself, but I had no idea if others would like it.

My book sat for several years as an unfinished project, so in 2010 I decided to get serious and finish it. I hired an editor who sent me a seven page critique of my writing. The first two pages were about my writing strengths, and the last five were areas of “room for improvement.”

After several rewrites and another round of editing, I self-published my first novel The Money Maker in Jan. 2012. I have gotten some great feedback so far, but the task of marketing my book beyond my friends and family seems a bit daunting. I’ve never marketed a book before, but I am immersing myself in the process and learning what not to do. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to look on Amazon or Barnes and Noble websites and see my book there available for purchase. All the years of hard work and rewrites were definitely worth it.

I’m beginning to see that writing could very well be my next career. Some of the best writers never took a writing class, so I can dispel the notion that it takes a writing degree to be a good writer. The most important thing to being a writer is “can you tell a good story” rather than “can you construct a good sentence.”

My kids will be at home for several more years, so I see this time as an opportunity to develop my writing craft and be there for them when they get home from school. I have started my second novel called The Tesla Papers.

I have no idea if I could make a living from writing, but I’m learning so much and having a good time. Now when someone asks me what I’ve been up to, I can say, “I just wrote a book!”

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