More than ten years ago, I discovered blogging. I created my own little Blogger account, and every day, I would write down something—something I wore, something I saw, something that moved me. Blogging was a community, and one that I enjoyed being a part of; but when I started that blog, I had other things in mind, too. I dreamed of one day writing the blog post that would say, “When I started this blog, I hoped for the day I would tell you about my forthcoming book…”
(This is not that post.)
When I started on this writing adventure, almost entirely by accident, I read once that aspiring authors shouldn’t publicize their steps through the process. It was seen as bad form to share failures, to expose trade secrets, to catalog the journey until there was something real to share. So, in this space, where I have reflected on most parts of my life through the last decade of adulthood, I have consciously neglected to record something that has taken up quite a lot of my brain space.
In the last year, five of my friends have signed book deals, and I have walked through different parts of the publishing process with them. Quite often, a question that follows my announcements and praises of my friends’ projects is, “And when is your book coming out?” I’m always at a loss for how to respond. I’ve been through the ringer a time or two, with several different projects, but I realize that it’s a body of work—and a store of emotions—that I’ve not been public about. I’ve no foundation for responding.
I’m not the girl who feels obligated to share the details of my life with the internet. I share what I want to share, because it’s something I’ve learned and feel may resonate with someone else. After all these years, this has become that. Maybe you’re not a writer, but maybe you have a dream, something that you’re waiting to come to fruition. You are not alone.
And now, a brief history of where I am with that “first” book.
My first first book was to be a version of my blog at the time, mostly thoughts on ending my twenties and what it meant to turn thirty. A literary agent approached me and asked me to write it. I had a heavier following in those old days of blogging, a more regular posting schedule. I had no idea what went into writing a memoir, let alone the proposal to pitch it. I educated myself and worked tirelessly for six months on the thing. In the end, the agent changed her mind. She said that she’d received another proposal for a book that she could read while giving her son a bath. She had to think through my book too much.
The first failure is always a blow; but now I was in it. I’d ventured into the world of being published. In an effort to distract myself from all that work I’d seemingly done for nothing, I switched to a novel. I like fiction. It’s what I prefer to read. I spent three years writing my first novel: 100,000 words of traveling the world and coming-of-age, and something any basic white bitch who calls herself a writer could come up with. I had to get it out. It was an important step. But 80 literary agents didn’t want to represent it because it wasn’t fresh.
I quickly wrote my second novel. It’s amazing how much faster it comes. You understand the process, what’s required of you. You’re normally ready to just move on to something new. I had a timely idea and a unique voice for it. I had interest from agents in this project, but almost no follow-through, and I think, after much reflection, I now know the reason why: I wasn’t writing something that I wanted to write. I was writing something I thought would sell. Trying to be someone else only works sometimes, and it didn’t pan out for me on my second novel.
When we took off to travel, I had a lot of interest in different projects from small presses. There were several phone calls with an indie publisher in LA who wanted a full-color book of our cross-country travels—photographs, short stories, some essays. I had a face-to-face meeting in New York with an editor from another small publisher. She liked my idea about chronicling our European travels and why it is Millennials are making such non-traditional lifestyle choices. Because we were going to be working our way around the Mediterranean and because I’m so interested in natural living, she thought perhaps I’d also be a good fit to pen a book about olive oil for their natural home series. In the end, an editor’s interest doesn’t hold up to the opinions of an editorial board, and the board’s opinion, at both houses, on all three projects, was that I don’t have a platform that promises to sell their books.
Last week I had a phone call with a literary agent to pitch my new memoir proposal, mostly about our decision to travel Europe, but even more so, about leaving home and coming home and making home. I think she asked for the phone call because it was a warm referral from a friend. She said it was a lovely enough idea, but that maybe I should try to start a blog about it first and “get my numbers up,” otherwise it would be a waste of time for her to try to sell it.
When you’re faced with obstacles or failures, it’s hard to talk through it without sounding bitter. I’m honestly not bitter about the whole experience, I’m just exhausted. It is so wearying to be rejected again and again, on so many different planes. It’s tiring to be willing to readjust but to find that even those adjustments won’t necessarily yield results.
And it is also exhausting to not know where to go next. Do I keep working on something I’ve started? Do I follow the whispers of new ideas on the edges of my brain? Do I heed the desire to tell our story over my desire to sell it, starting a new topical blog and just “put it all out there”? Or do I just set everything aside for now?
A friend referred me to Mari Andrew’s story, the other day; and it is an incredible tale of facing rejection and triumphing in the end. There are hundreds of podcasts and blog posts of stories just like hers, all inspiring and encouraging.
Yet in the face of my own challenges and failings, I find I frequently question that thin line between perseverance and gracefully letting go. I’m not saying I’m never going to try to write another book, just that, maybe it’s a good idea to step away from the thought for awhile. To find the idea that’s going to really make its mark. To allow my creativity to breathe again. To create something that will make the Citizens of the Internet want to follow along, want to share what I write, if that’s what it really takes these days. To figure out if I possess “what it takes”.
One of the tragedies of being a Four on the Enneagram is how positive we are that we are unique in someway. I’m an Individualist, and I’m special. It’s a fun factor in pursuing creative ventures, how you feel connected to artistic spirits across time and space; but it’s also a little silly how distracting it can be at times. For example, I was so busy trying to sell a book these last few years and being distraught over it, I forgot how much I love coming here, and setting to the record little thoughts that flit across my mind. I’ve missed doing something for the love of it rather than the need for acknowledgement (there’s that Three Wing, if my Enneagram lovers are tracking).
So, when am I going to publish that first book? Well, I don’t know. At this point, it’s probably going to be later rather than sooner. But like all the things I walk through and process, if and when it happens, I’m pretty sure I’ll find it redeemed on the other side.
There it is. I’ve told it all. Maybe it’s not what I was “supposed to do”, but maybe worrying about what I’m “supposed to do” has been the problem in the first place.
One more thing I’m not supposed to do: ask you to like, comment, and share my work on social media. I find this SO incredibly annoying, but sometimes people aren’t aware of how it drives algorithms. Every time you engage something I post on my blog, my Instagram, or my Facebook, it gets a little boost. You share it because you love it? Even better. I hope that’s not a lot to ask. :)