|My dog Jake on a walk: what freedom looks like.|
When I got my master’s, my mom encouraged me to stay home and devote full-time attention to my writing. Chalk it up to the fact that I was only 24—or to the fact that I was a straight-A, never-failed-at-anything-before type-A kind of gal—or to the fact that I’d already published a few short pieces—but I honestly thought I’d have no problems publishing a novel. I was green and a bit full of myself, probably. And I was 100% confident it’d take a year to so to write a novel, it’d sell, and I’d be off and running.
Try seven and a half. Seven and a half long years to get my first yes. (And a horrible time, about four years into it, when I questioned everything, and nearly gave up my pursuit of becoming a novelist completely.)
When I landed that first deal, I was green and a bit full of myself, probably. I was “in” the publishing world, I thought, and was 100% confident that my struggles would be behind me.
Since then, I’ve gotten good reviews and crummy reviews. I’ve sold work and struggled to sell work. I’ve been excited by sales numbers and disappointed by sales numbers. I’ve won awards and lost awards. Those close to me have been excited by book releases and have also, in some cases, refused to read my books. I’ve been offered author events and refused author events.
I’m not so green anymore, and I do not expect any of that to stop anytime soon.
So often, as an author, it feels as though I’m constantly seeking others’ permission: permission to publish, permission to advertise, etc. I’ve finally realized that one of the best things I can do for myself is give myself permission—and the same kind of no-holds-barred freedom my mom gave me when I got out of school. Freedom to muck up a draft, toss it in the trash, and start again. Freedom to try a new promo idea that may or may not work. Freedom, most importantly, from the ridiculous notion that at some point in my career, everything will become smooth sailing. It isn’t—it won’t—it’s writing. It may very well be the hardest gig going—and the most exciting—and the only thing that makes me feel like me.
I don’t know that the next book I write will be well received. I don’t know that anyone will buy it. Rather than a sure thing, publishing now feels to me like going to a party that I know could either be an utter disaster or the night of my life.
But isn’t the thrill of the unknown really one of the most exhilarating parts of the whole process?