Monday, October 11, 2010

Doing What You Can; Understanding What You Can't

All my life I dreamed of writing a book. For someone who has always believed in the power of my dreams, my overall effort was, frankly, half-assed. I started, all gung-ho, and always let the story ideas fall by the wayside. I've lost count of the number of books I started.

Was it laziness? Lack of commitment? Maybe a little of both, but more than that, I suffered a horrible lack of confidence.

About sixteen years ago, I finally got serious. It's impossible to publish an unwritten book, after all, and I knew that if I was ever going to see this dream come true, I'd better get my ass in gear. I joined Romance Writers of America (RWA) and New Jersey Romance Writers (NJRW) and focused on learning the craft of writing book-length fiction. I wrote and wrote and wrote, revised, polished and revised some more. I entered contests and thrilled to any positive comments. I learned to not let criticism or rejections crush my spirit and never gave up.

It took several years, including some when I was derailed by certain life events but not by self-confidence hits. Then, finally, I sold the second manuscript I'd completed to a new, small, independent publisher. Soon after, they bought the next book. The high of realizing my dream was better than sex, champagne and rock and roll all at once. No matter what, I'd written books and they'd been published!

Unfortunately, it wasn't enough in the long run. The books didn't sell well. Even though I know intellectually that very small print runs and light distribution contributed to crappy sales, I internalized the process and let it knock the confidence right out of me. Then the publisher put my books Out of Print, and the desolation increased. You know how Hester wore an "A" on her chest to proclaim her sin of Adultery? I felt like I walked through the days with an "L" for Loser.

That wasn't even the worst part. The biggest casualty of the experience was that I let it annihilate my creative spirit and drive.

Editors and agents at conferences always say, "Write the best book that you can" as if that's the be all and end all. Well, I'd done that and it ended badly. So, where did that leave me, the writer?

In a really sad, depressed, disheartened place. The thing about spending time in a hellish spot, is that any sane person doesn't like that existence. It sucks when something that used to bring great joy hurts you again and again, but that's how it goes until you find a way to stop the pain.

I had a choice. Completely give up and find a way to no longer care, or fight back. I've chosen to battle the feelings of failure and do whatever it takes to revitalize myself, and my writing career.

Recently, I asked for full reversion of the rights to my two published books. Happily, the publisher agreed. Now, I have the ability to breathe new life into these stories. I can try to sell them to another publisher, or I can publish them myself via Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and other platforms. Having only recently gotten them back under my control, I'm not eager to give them up again anytime soon.

I'm embarking on a new venture. I have a plan to accomplish my goals. It's even committed to an Excel spreadsheet. I might be a creative soul, but I know how to execute a methodical plan. I can do this.

I already am.


Becky said...

Oh, Mary, that's fabulous! I'm so proud of you for getting back in there. Let me know when the books are available for Kindle-- I definitely want to check them out!

You are a GREAT writer!

Bona Fide Betty said...

It's awesome that you wrote and published the books, and it's awesome that you are going to breathe life into them again. Let us know how it goes - my Kindle is itching for some Betty books.

Hope said...

I feel that was about my CD, especially since I published it myself. I need to sell about 800 more copies just to break even. :\

More days than not, it gets me down. But then I remember that the creative process sustains me, that hearing my songs recorded professionally delights me and that recording was one of the most fun and rewarding things I've ever done.

Sometimes, it's the journey and not the destination.

Although I still get down in the dumps about it. :p

Gennita said...

You can do this. I know it!