There are some opportunities in life that only come along once, some things that you only get one shot at. You can’t unbreak an egg.
For the most part, I’m one to be philosophical about such things. My go to example is one morning many years ago when I was running incredibly late for work, and I’m not a person who is generally or habitually late, especially if being late is going to keep other people waiting because that’s incredibly inconsiderate and it devalues both your time and theirs, so I had that going on where I was thinking “I’m going to be late. I am never late.” My alarm didn’t go off, I couldn’t find one of my work shoes, eventually I got out the door. If I’d been on time that day, I probably would have been involved in a multiple vehicle collision that resulted in four fatalities and sent three other people to the hospital.
By the time I got to work, I was shaking so badly that I couldn’t work, thinking how angry I’d been that I was late, and that being late had probably saved my life, in that instance. Ever since then, I figure there’s a reason when things seem like they aren’t going “right,” or going the way that I want them to, or think that I want them to. Really, there have been countless times when things seemingly haven’t worked out and later on, I’ve realized that it saved me from something, one way or another, even though it really was a drag or completely broke my heart at the time.
There were a lot of things that I really wanted for myself when it came to my writing, in fact, there are a lot of things that I still want, but, the reality level of my expectations has changed considerably. That’s been a tough thing, but it’s okay somehow, perhaps it is even a good thing.
As a writer, I started out ( we’re talking decades ago), dreaming of winning a Pulitzer Prize for poetry, then I thought I’d write something epic like, “The Stand”, and then I’d write crime fiction, at some point, I learned about The Bram Stoker Awards and thought, wouldn’t it be cool to win a Stoker? Never mind even thinking about the “Big Book Deal” that would catapult me to never-ending financial success. That was before I ever really understood anything about being a writer. I’m kind of proud of myself for thinking so highly of myself that I’ve dared to have such lofty daydreams, I mean, if you’re going to dream, then dream big. Talent, however, isn’t everything. ( Is it the only thing? Probably not.) I’ve had some challenges along the way, not to mention having previously admitted that I knew nothing about the modern publishing world going into this, but I didn’t let that even slow me down, I mean, there was no time to waste.
The truth is that you get to certain places in your life and there is a narrowing of certain possibilities. I mean, yeah, okay, anything is possible, but at some point, it’s kind of about probability as well. I still have really amazingly large dreams, and wonderful hopes. I also have a pretty good reality where having let go of a lot unrealistic, if not immature, expectations, I can just write again, and have it be about the writing. That is an incredible relief. You know, I figure, one way or another, things are happening the way that they’re supposed to. So it goes, keep moving forward. I probably won’t ever win a Bram Stoker Award. Really, I don’t want one. I’ve realized I was writing horror as a means of challenging myself as a writer because it was the only thing, writing violence, that was outside of my “comfort zone.” Not the first time I’ve done that, for as long as I’ve been writing I’ve challenged myself to “write the next thing.” Well, “comfort zones” take years for people to find, lifetimes in fact, and I’ve discovered that those who advise stepping out of them ( and often that kind of advice is nothing other than a manipulation) generally don’t know what they’re talking about and should mind their own business when it comes to others people’s lives and handing out unsolicited advice. My observation, those writers that really find their comfort zone, their groove, they are the ones who are really kicking ass at it. I’ve always challenged myself but, writing horror, has, for the most part, not been a good experience for me in too many ways. I don’t know what all that means for my writing just yet. It might have made me a better writer in some way. I did write my first full length novel while writing horror, but no, not a good experience. What I wanted, at the last, was to belong, to feel as though I belonged. I don’t think I wanted any award so much as that. I might hold out some hope for that Pulitzer but, even at that, it is more important to me to be doing work that I think is good work, work that I want to be doing.
Writing that I want to be writing, for whatever reason it interests me.
To that end, I had about seven different beginnings written for the sequel to the vampire novel, a completed outline, and it just wasn’t working. I was staring into space, a lot. I was getting discouraged, I was getting depressed. I realized that my heart really wasn’t in it. There are a lot of jobs that you can do and do well if your heart really isn’t in it, writing a full length novel isn’t one of them, at least, it isn’t for me. I rationalized myself into that being the first book I was working on this year because it’s the one that would take the longest for me to write, etc. I thought, Why am I doing this to myself? I don’t want to write this, I didn’t want to write about vampires to begin with. I gave myself permission to not write the sequel to the vampire novel, someday, maybe who knows. It’s really important to know when to cut bait.
When I did that, I gave myself permission not to write a bunch of other things that I don’t want to write or re-write either. I’ll never re-write “Souvenirs, The Rain” that was my first novel, a psychological thriller, the one that I just about sold, as that book. I’d change some things about that. ( I did re-write it as “The Edges of The Rain” and it’s a better book, though not something I want to ever do again.) I’ll call that a learning experience. I will tell you that the opening paragraph is one of the best things that I have ever written. I just read it again and it flat-out flys and sings, but it wasn’t meant to be, or it would have been. I’m likely done with my Sci-fi/Western as it is too, it has recyclable parts as well. “Westworld” kind of kicked everything’s butt on the western front for a while, I think. I feel like, that goose is cooked. I wrote both of those books in 2011/2012, and they both broke my heart in different ways, for different reasons. I learned a lot from writing those books, but it is time to move on. That’s kind of freed up my writing schedule ever so slightly. There’s always poetry, a couple of collections that need serious editing for the sake of well-being and continuity. I can also tell you that the original draft of the “Loralee” novella was not quite twenty-six thousand words. (Sometimes it just isn’t the time for something. Things change. Who knows.)
You can’t unbreak an egg. I was putting the eggs away when I dropped one the counter and it’s like another secret of the universe revealed itself to me. I cleaned it up. Then I cleaned my house, and I did some serious thinking. I thought about quitting. I thought about it all day, because if I’m not making the beaucoup dolores or winning awards, becoming exceedingly popular, etc., ( could all still happen) then what’s the point? Well, that was never the point.
Every writer’s first audience is themselves.
Long before anyone ever knew that I was a writer, a real and true honest to goodness dyed in the wool writer, I wrote for me. All day, all night, whenever, on and on, I wrote because I love to do this. I love to write. So, having thought about it, I don’t really see the point in quitting. I have, however, adjusted my thinking about it all, to accommodate happiness.
Here’s a link to an article, The Truth About Publishing, it’s from 2005, but it might be helpful to those who don’t quite grasp how tough this business is.
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