I think I can talk about this now without crying.
Last year, I got a job. A job that pays every week. At Wegmans, a grocery store.
A little history: Since 2008, I’ve had lots of part-time jobs, but I considered myself a full-time writer. In July of 2010, I sold my first erotic romance to Samhain Publishing. A few months later, I signed a two-book deal with Sourcebooks for SCRUMPTIOUS and LUSCIOUS. I was psyched! I felt talented, validated, and optimistic about writing paying the bills some time in the future. I did it!
Kind of. I should change my Facebook status to “It’s Complicated with Publishing.” Writing has payed some bills. It has its ups and down, and some would argue that the benefits of the writing life are intangible. That great reviews from major sites in the romance industry (which I have gotten), new friends, achieving a life goal, and just being able to call myself an author, are enough payment. For some personality types, I bet they are. But I internalize the downs and shrug off the ups. If I were writing myself as a character, that would be a huge flaw. I’m working on it. But that’s another subject. I need writing to make money so I can feel like I’m doing a good job. Or, at least, I thought I did. More on that in a second.
A little more history: SCRUMPTIOUS was well-received, but not a breakout success. LUSCIOUS, poor LUSCIOUS. I love that book. LOVE IT. But I don’t think it has even earned out its advance. I can’t bear to check. My HOT NIGHTS series with Entangled got a lot of attention from readers and the publisher (so cool!). In fact, SEDUCING THE PLAYBOY was chosen as a Holiday Steal this month. It’s on sale for .99. That is definitely an up. Entangled choosing to feature one of my books is delightful. (So if you haven’t read it or think one of your friends would like a stocking stuffer, now is a great time to buy it. 🙂 It will make you feel like you did when you had your first hard crush.) My latest Entangled book, IMPULSE CONTROL, came out last January, almost a year ago. It’s still selling strong, thanks to the monthly releases of the rest of the Men of the Zodiac series, but I was already out of time when it released. In fact, I’d been working at Wegmans for two months.
I needed to earn a solid, dependable, weekly paycheck. Because of the grueling, physical nature of foodservice work, that meant I was going to be tired, too tired to devote as much time to writing as I needed to in order to make it in the romance writing business. Consistent and frequent releases are crucial. Yes, I know other people have full-time jobs and do it. But this is me. I was already tired. Beaten down. Oh God, I felt like such a failure! I still do. (But I’m fighting it with self-help books.) I wrote eleven books (if you are counting, I also released several erotic romances under another name) and had SUCH high hopes for them! I kept writing, slogging, and pushing, while working two part-time jobs. For five years, I was rarely, if ever, not working. Getting a job at a grocery store felt like giving up. Failure. The death of my dream.
I know it sounds melodramatic. I don’t care. I don’t think I’m a special snowflake. The events of the past five years (And any writers out there will know it wasn’t five years. I got published in 2010. I started writing in 2005.), had proved the opposite. I wasn’t special. I was just another struggling author.
Which brings us to now. Did I quit writing last year? Nah. I have a series idea that won’t let me go. I’m thinking about self-publishing them when I get the first three books done, edited, edited, proofread, formatted, covers… Oy ye gods it makes me tired to think about learning another profession! So I’m just writing. I’m calling them “slow books,” like “slow food,” get it? I’m taking my time getting them to the table. I can’t just publish them one at a time, either. Book One has a big ass cliffhanger. Now THAT would be professional suicide. I’m working on my platform. One of the self-help books I’ve read is Kristen Lamb’s Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World. You’ll be seeing more from me as I work on my blogging muscles. More recipes, too. Less writing equals more cooking. And eating, so there’s been more yoga this year. Going to the gym requires an incentive bigger than food, so I buy myself books. I’ve read a lot of books this year. I can buy books because my weekly paycheck means we can pay the bills. I’m not in a constant money panic anymore. Does this sounds like a bad life?
No. It’s good. Very good.
It’s been shocking as hell to discover I’m happier writing less. When you’ve built your identity as a writer for a decade, it’s a big what the fuck moment to realize you may have been barreling down the wrong road. I say barreling because maybe I should have been walking. When you walk, you can effortlessly hold hands with your kids. You can chew gum. You can play an instrument…I’ll stop there because I could abuse the hell out of this metaphor. 🙂
I’ve been thinking about direction. I’m not the only one because I came across this blog: Why Some Dreams Should Not Be Pursued. And this one by a debut author: Being Good At Something Doesn’t Mean You Should Do It. Food for thought.
I also think about failure. All the time. It’s a thing. I know it’s in my head, but it doesn’t matter. Thinking and feeling are different planets, and I FAILED not to cry when I was writing this. It’s so bizarre. Despite success in my grown-up jobs, I focus on the negative. What the actual fuck? Who does that? I mean, I’m writing this blog, trying to be honest and lay it bare, and a little voice keeps digging at me about my comma and parenthetical statement abuse. I should really look up the rules and get it right, right? But I’m too lazy. It will only be a “good” blog if it’s perfect, right? I should make it look easy, like I’m not struggling. God, I hate being vulnerable. (But I love Brené Brown. And no I’m not going to figure out how to make the accent mark thingie in her name. Yes I am. Out of respect for her worthiness. LOL.) This crazy criticism is what goes on inside my head. All the freaking time. In fact, I took a break from writing this blog to do the dishes because I couldn’t figure out an engaging ending. I want to hear from you, so I need to make you want to share your crazy with me. Are you a little on the nuts side, too? Are you hard on yourself? Have you ever barreled down the wrong road? What did you learn? What did you break? DID YOU SURVIVE?
As incentive to
hold my hand on the crazy road leave me a comment, I will offer you candy. Seriously. I’ll draw a name from the commenters, and I will ask you for your favorite candy-type thing. I will buy it at Wegmans, the greatest grocery store on the planet, and I will mail it in time for the New Year. Straight up. Candy for crazy.
It’s best to have failure happen early in life. It wakes up the Phoenix bird in you so you rise from the ashes. –Anne Baxter
Will you share your pretty ashes with me, please? I’d love to hear from you! 🙂