My husband calls me an idealist. He says I get these romanticized pictures in my head of how things are supposed to be.
He’s not wrong. Especially when it comes to writing.
When I finished my first novel, I pictured selling it to the first publisher who laid eyes on it.
When I got an agent with my third novel, I pictured that book selling at auction for a six-figure deal.
When I sold my first novel to a publisher (my fourth completed novel), I pictured it being showered with adoration and an unlimited marketing budget.
Once my kids were all in school, I pictured long, productive days in front of the computer, pounding out three or four novels per year, which of course my publisher would offer contracts for, sight unseen.
I still imagine leisurely vacations at the lakeshore where I rent a cottage and soak up endless inspiration.
I let myself dream of waking up in the middle night with a fully formed novel in my head, then typing it all out in one day as the words flow like water.
It’s not wrong to dream big. But writing requires a healthy dose of resilience and flexibility. And what works for one person is not guaranteed to work for you. Say it with me:
There is no one proper way to be a writer, and no one path to publication.
It’s so tempting to always be peering over the proverbial fence, deciding that what someone else has is the ultimate key to success. If only I had a better laptop. If only I could get out of bed earlier or stay up later. If only I had the perfect writing space, or a full-time nanny, or a famous mentor.
Last year, for no apparent reason, I broke out in hives. For six solid months. I was on so many meds, trying to keep it under control, that I would fall asleep in front of my computer in the middle of the day. I had these beautiful, enticing chunks of alone time when I planned to be so productive, and they would be utterly wasted because I had to go and take a nap or else I simply couldn’t function. I wasted even more time grousing about it, instead of just showing some flexibility and working around it.
I finally realized that instead of fighting it, I should just take a nap, and then wake up and work. Arrrgh. Why do we waste so much time raging against unexpected obstacles? I’m slowly learning, after many, many years, to pick myself up after setbacks and just get back to work.
Another case in point:
Some people long for the chance to be at home and write full-time. They may tell themselves that when it finally happens, they’ll be prolific, find an agent, write a bestseller.
But I had that chance, and it did not work for me. I had too much time to obsess about writing and little else, and it paralyzed me. I poured all of my mental energy and emotion into it, but it didn’t make me write more often. If anything, I would sit down at the keyboard and freeze up.
I discovered I’m the type of person who needs a secondary area of focus (besides parenting) in order to be productive. Ideas come more freely to me when I’m doing something not related to writing.
So I started looking for part-time jobs. And as of last week, I was officially hired to work at my alma mater in the music department. I’m nervous and thrilled at the same time, but I already know it’s going to be a great fit.
I truly believe that there is no secret formula, no one road to success. Through trial and error you will develop and discover your own tailor-made path that will help you be the most productive—and find the most joy.