Half a decade ago, when I was halfway to seventy, I “retired” from teaching to pursue a dream… I took one year to start a blog and to write full-time.
But after the year, when I didn’t have a single novel sold, after writing four, instead of returning to teaching, I took what I thought would be a mundane day job to save my creativity so I could continue to write at night. As a side gig, I accepted the position of media specialist/promotions manager at The Seymour Agency, made amazing contacts, and saw the raw behind-the-scenes activities of publishing – so much more than writing a damn good novel.
I wrote, but my mind was a chaotic whirlwind of ideas with no real direction. My teen novels could be classified as realistic fiction and paranormal romance. My adult novels fit in the contemporary romance and general fiction genres. I was all over the place, forming my voice, spending time with characters from middle school to middle aged. Then, my agent announced she’d sold me in a three-book deal to Entangled Publishing. I thought I finally understood what it took to survive in the publishing industry. I wanted to mentor others along, the way I’d been mentored. I wanted to help other authors find their dreams. I researched other agents who were also authors, created a solid business plan for literary success, and agreed to become the agency’s third agent.
“No agent is better than a bad agent.” We’ve all heard the line, read the warnings, and still hoped to find the perfect agent-client fit. But I knew, after too many tears and too much alcohol, that I wasn’t a good agent. My clients were trusting me with their careers, and after editor after editor after editor after editor told me that their manuscripts were lacking in one way or another, after my self-esteem took a beating, after every morning when I would look in the mirror and feel like a failure, I knew I didn’t have what it took to be a good agent. I let the opinions of others shape how I viewed myself. I knew those manuscripts I submitted to editors were brilliant. In the deepest part of my being, I fell in love with every word on the page of my clients’ novels. But after too many times of editors rejecting what I’d so eagerly submitted on my clients’ behalf, I froze. The breakdown was swift, and on most days I still feel like a failure for letting them down, but in that same year, I received so much support from the writing community, from other agents who had left the field, and most importantly from the authors in my circle, that I somehow made it from “I’m a terrible person and let everyone down” to “I’m going to be okay one day, and they are better off without me.”
After that year, I received a lot of messages from people saying that I shouldn’t take everything so personally, that it will eat me up inside if I do. But here’s what I don’t understand when people say it’s not personal… For someone like me, everything is personal. Because if it’s not, then why do I care? Why mention it? Why waste my time? I will find a way to make more money. But I can’t make more time. So please don’t say it’s not personal to me. Because if it’s not personal, it’s not worth my time.
I’m in my thirties. It’s fundamentally misleading but technically correct. Five years ago I quit my fun, amazing, energizing teaching job to pursue a lonely, self-esteem abusing dream, and too much has happened between then and now.
It stuns me that it’s taken me almost four decades to develop opinions and learn to trust my own thoughts. On most days, I’m still not sure I do. But I am finding out what I’m good at doing well, and for now that’s handling this moment. It may have taken me four decades to figure out what it meant to live in the moment, but I’m still here. I’m still living.
Five years ago I left a job I loved to pursue another passion of mine, becoming a published author. This weekend I’m taking time to make new goals for the next five years.
Where were you five years ago? Did you have a five-year plan? What goals do you have for the next half a decade?
As always, thanks for stopping by!