Life (Or Something Like It)

I hesitated before deciding to write this post, not because of the words that follow, but because this is a writing blog, and a personal post about my life just seemed a little indulgent. But then I remembered good writing is all about tapping into truth, and what could possibly be truer than the life we’re living?

Well, mine has been…interesting. Some of you know that last May I took on the responsibility of caring full-time for my Granddaughter, Harper. (She turned five in December, three days after Christmas. I know, right? December birthdays. Sigh. think I’ll introduce half-birthdays this year.) The first two months or so, I dedicated my time 24/7 to helping Harper overcome some emotional and psychological challenges that resulted from her previous situation, and also to help her with speech issues that had plagued her since her first word. (No, I won’t go into detail here – but suffice it to say she didn’t have much consistency in her little life in the preceding year.)

(For the record, there will be lots of parenthetical stuff in this post. Think of it as carefully-considered words, not meant to stir up conversation or controversy, but to gently inform. Okay? Thanks.)

Did I mention that I’m on my own? I’m not married, nor do I have a significant other [call me, Kate Beckinsale] who can play a support role in this. (Going on 11 years of singleness and solitude and loneliness in that regard. That’s another story – one for the movies – and one that I won’t share on this blog. Feel free to piece it together from the spaces between the words in my fiction writing. Then cry a tear or two if you’re into that sort of thing.)

Well, I’d already scheduled a full slate of editing projects for the summer, so those had to be delayed, and the ones on the heels of those as well. There’s absolutely no way to “edit faster” if you’re committed to giving both the book and the author your best. All the deadlines went down like dominoes. My meager savings (meant to buy me a month to write my next novel) quickly disappeared, and I was just hanging by a thread there for a while, at least financially. The good news is that when you’re totally consumed with trying to remember how to parent a young child and figure out how to pay the bills without a regular income, there’s little time left to remember you suffer from depression.

Meanwhile (I could do lots of “meanwhiles” here, but I’ll just do this one), I had just released a novel, Stolen Things, which I self-published because I couldn’t find an agent who was willing to take a chance on it (though a few truly wanted to, for what that’s worth). All my clever marketing plans went up in smoke, as did that plan to work on the next book, Beautiful Sky, Beautiful Sky. (It will be worth the wait – I promise.)

I love writing. (And of course, having written.) But writing, along with my income-producing editing work – which I love nearly as much – had been flipped on their heads and all my writerly dreams – of marketing my ass off to get onto the bestseller charts with Stolen Things, of making the next book so good agents would fight over it – evaporated. Yes, I know, the right word is “delayed,” but in the middle of wrestling with the chaos, “evaporated” is what it felt like. Feels like, still, sometimes.

And so here I am, seven months down the road, playing single-parent at 57, not counting on that to change, but still hoping for good things, and still doing my best to keep moving forward. It’s not easy. But what is? (Don’t even get me started on the mess that politicians are making of the country I love and for the people I care about.) That’s probably the only lesson I can give you in the middle of this post. It’s far from original, but it’s about as true as true gets: Life isn’t easy. Writing isn’t easy, either. But if you have to press pause on one, choose writing.

I get mildly upset when I read advice from “successful” writers telling those of us still angsting for that modifier that to be a real writer you have to write every day.

Bullshit.

If you write every day and that’s how you get where you want to be, good for you. But life doesn’t care if you have a dream of selling a million books, or getting a hundred five-star reviews, or being touted by Neil Gaiman as a brilliant, if underrated writer. (Fingers crossed.) Life just does what it does and sometimes it drags you away from your dreams to care for a little girl who needs all of you.

I have written exactly 346 words in my novel since May. Am I still a writer? Damn right I am. And someday you’ll have more evidence of that. Until then, I’ll be raising a young reader-dancer-firefighter-whatever-she-wants-to-be-today while chipping away at all the missed freelance deadlines (many apologies to my long-suffering clients, and many thanks as well for your continued patience) and hoping for an hour here or there to write more of my next book.

And that will have to be good enough.

I’ll leave you with this: Write as much as you can. Be intentional about it. But first, live.

Still Here…

Just stopping by to let you know I haven’t abandoned you. I’m just still super-busy with editing projects, as well as caring for my granddaughter, Harper. I have more things to say, and I’ll say them when I can. Meanwhile, read the archives, write your books, and eat lots of [insert your favorite food here].

Dear Reader Who Didn’t Love My Book…

Dear Reader Who Didn’t Love My Book,

First of all, thank you. You took a risk on me. I really appreciate that. Asking a stranger to read your novel is just about the hardest thing we writers have to do. (Apart from writing query letters.) So when someone actually decides to purchase a book, we experience a rare and wonderful gratitude that you decided to take the plunge.

A rare and wonderful gratitude that is quickly buried by an avalanche of anxiety.

See, here’s the thing: I want to have written the book just for you. I do. But there’s a good chance I didn’t. It’s not that I don’t respect your personal taste in fiction – I am a cheerleader for diversity in books and the people who read them. Love what you love, and do so unapologetically. But whenever someone picks up my book, I reach for a tremulous hope that it will be the next thing you love unapologetically.

When it is? Well, we’ve just proven that magic is real. That’s the only word to adequately describe the inexplicable connection between writer and reader. Somehow a writer finds a story and manages to write it down, and then a reader – usually a complete stranger – finds herself in that story. How did she get there?

Magic.

I’m pretty sure when you picked up my book, you were hoping for magic. Otherwise, why read a book at all? Okay, there are other reasons. But magic is the best reason. So you started reading, and maybe a few pages in – or perhaps as late as a few chapters – you started to get a sinking feeling, a gut-level ache that told you my book was absent magic.

I’m sorry you didn’t find yourself in my words. I mean that, sincerely. After all, you invested time and money in hopes of making a connection. Do I still believe in my book? Yes. Usually just slightly more than I believe I’m a hack. (It’s a writer thing.) True, my ego gets bruised from time to time when people say they didn’t love the fruit of months, sometimes years of hard work. But I won’t spend even one second trying to convince you why you’re wrong. Because you’re not.

I didn’t write it for you. Wish I could have warned you of that in advance. (My time machine is on the fritz, else I would.)

I truly hope the next book you read is chock full o’ magic. Meanwhile, feel free to share your non-magical experience in a review. A thoughtful negative review is just as valuable to a writer as a thoughtful positive one. Your words probably won’t change my approach to writing, but they will remind me of an important and universal literary truth: no book is for everyone.

And that’s okay.

Happy reading.

Sincerely,

The Author