It took my dad dying for me to finally wake up, get dressed, and drag my authentic self to life’s big party. I know that might sound like a terrible thing to say, but it’s true. In dealing with my shock and anger over my father’s lifelong secrets, I discovered my own passion for writing. I had spent my entire adulthood feeling ashamed and guilty about my admittedly foolish childhood missteps when the most momentous relationship in my life had been based on hypocrisy and lies. This irony is what prompted me to write “Later With Myself: The Misadventures of Millie Moskowitz.” (It was either that, or head straight back to therapy, and in the midst of the Great Recession, I simply couldn’t afford more time on the couch.)

I freely admit that writing “Later With Myself” began as a therapeutic endeavor. I’d always wanted to write a novel about my atypical childhood, and in particular about how I became pregnant at age twelve. But I couldn’t do it while my father was alive. I’d always told myself I didn’t want to disrespect or embarrass him in such a public way, but the truth is, I was scared of invoking his wrath. Even after my project got under way and my characters sprang to life, I wondered if my dad had the power to drive me insane from the grave. I thought I was losing my mind—I felt driven, compelled, relentless. The voices in my head would not shut up. They were unnerving, distracting, and maddening.

Now I see that this is simply part of the writing process. I have experienced the same sense of utter engagement with the characters I created in each of my two subsequent manuscripts—by far more fictitious than Lee and Franny, but no less captivating. The only difference is, I have learned to channel their intensity. Now, I jot notes and snippets of dialogue in a dedicated book throughout the day. I don’t allow thoughts, images, and voices to derail me. This exercise in self-discipline has taught me to stay focused, whether it be on writing in the wee morning hours, or practicing law throughout the workday.

My father’s death gave me permission to clear some dusty cobwebs from my psyche and chisel away at the layers of ice coating my heart. Thus freed from my self-imposed emotional prison, I can “show up” to life like never before. There is nothing like clarity of purpose to part the heavens. Ironically, it is precisely that energy that caused not just my writing, but my law practice, to take off in unimaginable ways. I have found myself growing and moving ahead in exactly the direction I needed to, but couldn’t pinpoint, just a few years ago while I floundered in a sea of grief and puzzlement over my father’s life and death.

It has taken me nearly fifty years to realize that Sheryl Sorrentino (not my real name) is an important part of who I am. It’s time to stop hiding and introduce her to the world. I may never find an agent, land a publishing deal, or even get noticed, but I can unearth my unique, individual voice. I hope it speaks to readers as it has spoken to me.