My daughter called me up a few years ago, in the middle of one of those weeks when the spare went flat, the rent check bounced, and the professor sprang a pop quiz on the one assignment she had forgotten to read.
“Why doesn’t anybody tell you being a grown up is HARD?” she wailed, and my heart went out to her. As a child, adulthood looms as a golden land free of boiled asparagus, a place where we can stay up late every night, and never have to get on another school bus again. Time passes, and we see that staying up late isn’t all we dreamed it could be.
Being a published author is a little like growing up. Two years ago this month, my first book hit the shelves—a dream come true! And yet… I’ve learned a few things too, not all of them happy. Some of my lessons learned:
1) Romance readers are among the kindest, most together people on the planet, and most romance authors are cut from the same cloth. We have our priorities straight, and for the most part, we treat each other decently. Yes, there are a few people, some of them reviewers, who must believe being snarky and narcissistic is some sort of contribution to the marketplace of ideas, but those people are by far in the minority, and they are not unique to the publishing industry.
2) Luck has a lot to do with whether a writer succeeds commercially, the same as it affects the careers of doctors, ditch diggers, teachers, and everybody else trying to earn a living. One author’s book is chosen for some award, another’s gets into the hands of a mean reviewer on a mean day. When I realized that luck is not the exclusive plague of the fiction writer, writing became no more risky than lawyering, parenting or riding horses—all of which I’ve done with some success.
3) Writing professionally is hard, not only because there are deadlines, reviews, and financial anxieties, but also because the manuscript I write becomes the property of an organization intent on maximizing the book’s commercial appeal, though how that’s done is still largely a mystery. In some ways, as an author, I have the least say over how the finished product is polished and packaged. In any survey of self-published authors, they do not cite increased revenue as their primary reason for turning away from traditional publishing, they cite an unwillingness to surrender artistic control as the reason they abandon the traditional publishing model. That’s significant.
4) The final lesson learned is probably the most important: I love to write romance. I wasn’t sure I would, once the royalty checks, deadlines, and sales figures started showing up, but I do, I do, I do love to write. This is a Big Gift, because having a passion in this life is an inoculation against all manner of woes and miseries that a mere paycheck cannot cure.
I hope twenty years from now, I’m still writing romances, and still feeling mighty, mighty grateful to have that privilege.
What’s your passion? Is it the same one you had twenty years ago? Two years ago? To one commenter below, I’ll send a signed copy of “The Bridegroom Wore Plaid.”