This spring has been a huge breakthrough for me, career-wise. For the first time in my life, there are no boundaries, no red lights, no barriers. Every question I ask is being answered, “Yes!” Opportunities are turning up out of thin air – and leading to even more opportunities.
After thinking I had no choice but to self-publish for the rest of my life, in the last month, I’ve signed to publish two books with Drake Valley Press, a medium-sized publishing house in North Carolina. DVP chooses their authors carefully and sparingly, produces their books with meticulous attention to detail, and supports them with a barrage of marketing and promotion strategies that are low-cost but highly effective. I’m consulted on every decision from punctuation to cover art to scheduling, and the mantra constantly repeated to me is, “Your name is on this book. You make the final call.” I LOVE it!
It’s the first time I’ve ever experienced such a sense of team play in publishing a book. DVP loves my work, and the feeling that other people care about my books—and will invest their own hard work and energy toward my success–is overwhelming.
STEALING FIRE, a love story, will be published on August 31st. FORWARD TO CAMELOT: 50th ANNIVERSARY EDITION, the reprint of the alternate-history novel about the JFK assassination that I wrote with Kevin Finn in 2003, will be published on October 31st. DVP will be focusing on promoting both books heavily for at least the first nine months and then steadily after that.
How did it happen? And why now, after I’ve been a professional writer for 25 years? I think because after all these years, I made a key decision, arising out of a fundamental change in the way I’ve chosen to live my life—and that has changed EVERYTHING. Literally. The universe is aligning itself to support my choices. Suddenly, nothing is hard.
The gurus tell you to visualize. SEE what you want in your future, imagine it, feel it happening to you. Theoretically, this brings you closer to that future. Well, either I’m too auditory for it to work (I hear sounds, music and words in my head all the time, but am much weaker at ‘seeing’ anything – blame all those years when my actual uncorrected vision was 20/400.)
What was that fundamental change?
Here it is. Drum roll, please: the fundamental change I made was deciding to LIVE MY FUTURE – RIGHT NOW.
I was one of those people who never lived in the now. I kept thinking that some time in the distant future (which I never quite defined), life would fall into place (didn’t know how) and I would make my living writing my own stuff, and everything would be wonderful. But years went by, I kept taking writer-for-hire assignments and never quite believed that writing my own original stuff would support me – and every time someone said something even slightly negative to me, I buried my original creative self in the sand and hoped no one knew where to find me.
Everything I did was ‘temporary, just until something better comes along’. But somehow, last year, the universe decided that wasn’t the way to go anymore. The writer-for-hire assignments dried up. I was no longer motivated to hustle for those jobs (and almost convinced myself I was no longer interested in writing, period), and my New York agent informed me a year ago that she no longer saw any point in representing me.
When your agent fires you, you know you’re on the wrong path. But how to get on the right one?
After thinking it over, I knew I had nothing to lose by LIVING THE FUTURE I thought I wanted, right now. Nothing else was working. The only jobs I could get paid $8.50 an hour and used none of my skills (and I had to take them; I desperately needed the income). It was profoundly depressing.
Early this year, I decided that visualizing my future wasn’t cutting it. No matter what rosy future I saw in my mind’s eye, it seemed completely disconnected to my present – and how to get from here to there was a problem too big for me to solve.
So I decided to go about it differently, using a two-pronged approach:
1) No more writer for hire. What I write from now on is MY OWN WORK. I stand or fall on it. I never felt like a real writer (whatever that is) fleshing out someone else’s ideas. I want to write my own. That’s why I became a writer to begin with (duh). Writing the books I have inside me is what keep me going – and I’ve previously delegated that task to some time in an undefinable future because I just could not imagine it on a day to day basis. But however well or badly I create a story, characters and world, that’s what I do, and what I intend to do for the rest of my life. While writing for hire is a GREAT way to get your name out there, to learn how to deal with assignments, editors, deadlines and the business of writing, it is not a substitute for letting your own voice be heard.
NO ONE BECOMES A WRITER TO WRITE SOMEONE ELSE’S STORIES.
2) I decided to stop even trying to visualize my future. Forget meditating with my eyes closed. Strategic planning (the business school version of visualization) never was my strong suit. I have trouble coming up with five-year plans; heck, I have trouble coming up with five-month plans. I can handle a week at a glance, but a life? Nope.
So the second decision was – STOP VISUALIZING AND START, INSTEAD, DOING EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO FILL MY PLACE AS A WRITER RIGHT NOW. EVERY DAY.
What did that mean? For me, it meant no longer visualizing a project. It meant writing it NOW, with whatever creative tools I have TODAY. Get the idea, jot down some notes, write a first draft, make more notes, rewrite, polish, submit. Repeat. It meant no longer dreaming of being respected as a writer and earning the big house, the big car, the big whatever; it meant doing my very best as a writer TODAY, so even if no one else ever respects me, I can at least respect myself and be happy with some, hopefully most, of my own effort.
It also meant accepting the knife-edge of recognition. It’s lovely when someone writes to say they like your work. It’s not so much fun when someone posts a rotten review of your book on Amazon, where the whole world will see it. Accepting that I’ll never get 100% of the audience is one of those things that to me means I’m thinking like a professional writer who knows that as much fun as it is to create your own world, there’ll always be someone who doesn’t like it. I’ve decided to accept that (like I can do anything else!) and move on. Brooding about one rotten review when a dozen people like my work is stupid and unproductive. And, by the way, unprofessional.
I intend to have at least one novel, possibly two, published EVERY SINGLE YEAR from now on. That means sitting down and banging away at that keyboard NOW. Making short-term career plans NOW (I can do short-term). Having pages completed THIS WEEK, not next century. The more I found myself making ‘writerly’ decisions – whether on creative content or promotional ideas – the more I found the universe was treating me like a – gulp – respected writer.
What a surprise. (Second ‘duh’ here.)
I got invitations to speak at conferences I’ve never heard of, and for some reason, the conference organizers were THRILLED when I said I’d turn up. They offered me great speaking slots and – hello! – will pay me just to show up, apart from any book sales I made. The way the world is seeing me as a writer seems to be a reflection of the fact that I’ve decided to see myself as a writer – you know, the kind who writes from original ideas and presents something to the world that comes entirely from me.
It feels good. The hell with visualization – being highly auditory anyway (I hear songs in my head all the time), visuals just aren’t my thing. But being a professional writer is. TODAY.