9, 7, 4, 2, 1? What is this--LOST? I have to admit--I felt a little clever coming up with that title, but it's actually not all that clever. I just couldn't fit everything into the title that I wanted to, so I had to shorten it to numbers.
Since 2008 when I wrote The Six and decided I would seriously pursue a career as an author, life has been insane, so those numbers represent the insanity--and the achievements--of the last nine years. Of course, I didn't add a number for my husband, but he is the supporting force behind it all, and without whom I couldn't do any of it. He's so supportive of my crazy career choices that when I said a couple weeks ago, "Hey, I need to drive 11 hours north to Washington DC to look around and see what it's like for book 3 of The Breeder Cycle," he said, "... Okay!" (But that will be a blog for another day.)
Back to the numbers...
I have often felt split these last nine years. When I started seriously writing, I had just finished up my first year of teaching. I love teaching. I always will, and I have given 110% to my students, but teaching is not my primary vocation or passion. Writing as a hobby can be done in snatches of time here and there, but writing as a career demands hours and hours of time--it demands the sort of attention that a true second job demands. And I was not interested in writing as a hobby. Over the years, I wrote, and continued writing, and developed my social media platforms, built this website, and signed with The Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House in late 2011, re-releasing books 1-3 of The Gateway Chronicles in 2012 and releasing book 4 all in that year, while also giving birth to my third son (THAT was a YEAR). Several of my books hit bestseller status on Amazon as the years went on, and the demands of two jobs and a growing family on one Me seemed sometimes to hit the tipping point. Being an author has sent me on some grand adventures, too--Austin, TX; Sydney, Australia; Savannah, GA; Atlanta, GA; Nashville, TN; Los Angeles, CA; and Miami, FL--and entered me into discussions with movie directors, graphic novelists, and other fabulous people. Between 2015 and early 2017, I have received 7 awards on my books, opening up new opportunities.
But I now have four children, and all this time I've remained a teacher, and that has always called me home. And when I'm asked how I've done these things and lived this double (or triple, really) life, sometimes I'm honestly not sure. Because it seems impossible to juggle--to have juggled--all these things for all these years. What I do know, though, is that the teaching chapter of my life is coming to a close. I am incredibly thankful to my school and my students and my years teaching, but as I shop around my 9th manuscript to agents and publishers, I know that the only way for me to keep my priorities straight--as a wife and mother--and to be true to my passion and vocation, is for me to focus on my writing career.
SO, the numbers will be changing at the end of this school year! Hopefully I will have finished my next book, so perhaps that number will be up to 10 by then. I don't know if I will have won any more awards, but maybe! That would be nice. We'll see. Still only 4 boys--we are DONE. 1 job! Full-time author. And 1 Me who will hopefully be better rested, better focused, and better able to take on new challenges in the publishing world!
I've written many books. Nine and some change, to be exact. The actual construction of the novel, at this point, is not as difficult for me as many other things in this profession. I teach seminars on how to write novels. I have my preferred method for that part down pretty well (not to say that I'm not a lifetime learner--I am). But the writing is not really my struggle right now, and I'd wager I'm not the only writer who's ever been in this position. I've already blogged this year about finding time to work, and about needing rest, so I won't bellyache any more about that. No, what I'm getting at here is playing the long game in the author career, and about the ache of silence and unfulfilled dreams.
My husband and I went to see the movie La La Land for my birthday last month. If you haven't seen it, you've probably at least heard that it's a musical and that it was highly acclaimed. It was a transcendent movie experience for me--one that perfectly juxtaposed dreaming with reality, and the raw emotion of rejection and failure with the soaring heights of what it feels like to succeed. In my favorite song of the film, the main character (Mia) sings,
"And here's to the ones who dream
Foolish as they may seem
Here's to the hearts that ache
Here's to the mess we make"
I've been doing a lot of dreaming for a lot of years. Since I was a child, really. And while I've achieved some of my dreams, I'm far from where I want to be as an author. These days I feel more like the aching is taking over. Writing the book--the books--is not the hard part. The hard part is waiting and not knowing if my career is ever going to soar to the heights of my dreams. The hard part is not letting my aching heart break. The hard part is sending out query after query to agents and being rejected or just not hearing anything back at all. The hard part is reminding myself that it's not personal--that it's not that I'm not good enough.
If you go see (or at this point, rent) La La Land, perhaps you'll understand why I sat and wept through portions of it.
"She told me
'A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that's why they need us'
So bring on the rebels
The ripples from pebbles
The painters, and poets, and plays
And here's to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem
Here's to the hearts that break
Here's to the mess we make"
*"Audition" written by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, and Justin Noble Paul, copyright Warner/Chappell Music, Inc
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