Failure? Or Just Bad Timing?
No one likes to admit they failed, not at anything. But we all do it. Mistakes are how we learn, right? (See? That’s me being a glass-half-full kinda gal).
But that’s not how I saw it about thirty years ago (yikes!) when I first tried to become a “real” author.
I was around twenty-seven at the time. I’d been in my position as a software engineer for a whopping six years (eternity!) and while it paid the bills, it wasn’t exactly my dream job. My dream job was – you guessed it – being an author.
Writing was something I’d always done, but it’d been a long time since I’d shared my stories with anyone, not since that one horrible, humiliating time in the fifth grade… but that’s a completely different story.
So anyway, I decided to try my hand at writing. It was a sweet romance, probably what would now be labeled as “new adult.” I wrote during whatever free time I had – breaks, lunch, evenings, weekends. I have no idea how many words it ended up being; Word didn’t exist then. Hell, Windows didn’t exist then. Printed out, it was about 2 inches thick.
I let my family and a few close friends read the story. They were supportive, if not gushing, and offered me free critiques and edits. That was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done – sharing my soul through my story.
But I was an adult, right? More mature and all that. Surely my skills – honed by reading hundreds, if not thousands of books – had improved since the last time I’d tried to share one of my stories (5th grade!) Still, revealing that part of me left me feeling more exposed than if I had stripped and wandered onto the busy highway with nothing but a smile.
At the same time, I was ecstatic. Thrilled to be fulfilling a personal dream of becoming a writer, I invested in some writers magazines and submitted my first-ever manuscript to potential publishing agents with lots of hope and optimism. To keep me sane while I anxiously waited for replies, certainI was going to realize the dream, I started penning (okay, typing) my second story.
I think you can see where this is going. Inevitably, the rejections came, and with each, my confidence plummeted further. I put the printed copies of my manuscript away along with my dreams. Convinced no one would ever want to read my stories but me, I stopped writing for a long time. What was the point?
But I missed it. So much.
Three kids, a new house, eleven acres, and shitty economy later, I found myself laid off from my white collar professional job and working in a small town pub and restaurant, and my inner muse resurfaced, probably a self-defense mechanism to keep me sane. I started writing again, in secret of course. I had to. I couldn’t not write. It didn’t matter that no one else would ever see my stories. I was writing for me.
Plot twist: I was re-hired by my company after they figured out that outsourcing wasn’t all they’d hoped for, and I ended up working in the corporate world another 10+ years. My job paid the bills, but I was miserable. In fact, for a time, my system password was Ihatemyf*ckingjob!
Seriously. That was always fun to share with tech support 😀
All the while, I continued to write in secret. It was my guilty pleasure.
Fast-forward to 2014. My software company was bought out and with almost 30 years under my belt, I was offered an amazing severance package. Self-publishing was a thing by that time – a gorgeous, beautiful, awesome thing – and I started having those pesky hopeful thoughts again. It seemed like there would never be a better opportunity to try again, but whether or not I should was the question.
Well, I think you can guess how I answered that question. Now, almost 7 years later, I can’t imagine doing anything else. And now that I’m older and so much wiser, I have to think, maybe I didn’t really fail. Maybe it didn’t work out earlier because it just wasn’t the right time. I had other stuff I had to do first.
Since becoming a full time author, I haven’t looked back. I can honestly say I have never regretted taking that chance. I have been extremely lucky, and I know it. Is it easy? Hell no. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t doubt myself or have severe attacks of “imposter syndrome.”
But you know what? Writing is still my dream job, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.