It’s that time of year where I do my life audit, where I analyze my personal, creative, and professional wins and losses. This is my fourth year of doing a personal review, similar to a professional review, where I look at how the year went and see what worked for me and where I can improve.
Now, you may think, why would someone want to analyze an entire year of their life and shine a light on their mistakes? Because it makes me better. It helps me realize the situations outside of my control. It helps me absorb and let go of toxic, negative thoughts and embrace positive traits I can cultivate.
For last year’s winter Solstice, I released self-doubt, laziness, and impatience, determining not to fall into those bad habits in the new year. I did pretty well, mostly. I’ve come to terms with the fact I’m not lazy, I just prioritize certain things over others. For instance, I’m writing three novels at once but I ran out of pants this week because I didn’t do my laundry.
I hate laundry.
Anyway, moving on to the highs. To the tippy-top of Wonderful Mountain!
2019 came in with a bang, and it didn’t let up. My husband and I managed a feat few millennials can right now. We purchased our first home in January. It’s modest-sized, perfect for us, and fit our budget. We couldn’t be happier and it’s nice to be out of an apartment which was literally killing me with black and yellow mold. I feel incredibly blessed.
In March, my best friend from high school visited Philadelphia during a layover and I realized just how much I miss being close to her. I hope she comes to visit again. My niece also turned one!
In April, we fenced in our yard with the help of my amazing father-in-law, and made our dog, Bones, a proper castle.
I published my debut novel in May. The process destroyed my nerves, my confidence, and gave me one hell of an existential crisis. I know, you’re thinking, I thought we were on Wonderful Mountain?! Don’t worry. We still are. Even though I would honestly endure giving public speeches then go through the process again in the immediate future, it really was an incredible feeling to have this dream come true. I am a published author. Publishing came with exposure to book bloggers and bookstagrammers and lots of interviews and reviews, both good and bad. It was overwhelming. I didn’t realize how unprepared I was for it all, or how I wished I had one more go at editing my book.
My husband and I celebrated our 1-year wedding anniversary in June.
In August, I got my copy of The Phantom Forest signed by fellow author Liz Kerin. Scott and I took our annual vacation camping trip and tried out our tent! It survived the rain. We hiked Mount Arab. I rounded out the month by attending the National Book Festival in DC, where I got my copy of Vicious signed by V.E. Schwab and listened to her speak on her writing process.
In September, I attended Wharton for Executive Training in Strategic Marketing for a Competitive Advantage. I met sooo many intelligent, successful professionals from around the world and came to realize I am SEVERELY out of my depth where marketing related math is concerned.
In October, we went to Alabama for my cousin’s wedding and it was wonderful to spend time with my family and swim in a pool in… October.
In November, I’ll be hosting the first Thanksgiving in our new home. I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo to finish the draft of the sequel to The Living God. I’m also publishing chapter-by-chapter stories on Wattpad and taking active steps to grow as a writer.
In December, we’ll go back to Alabama for Christmas and I have a book signing for my hometown folks!
Okay… time for the inevitable. We must descend from Wonderful Mountain into the Plains of Despair.
Plains of Despair
Y’all… the existential crisis was REAL this year.
February-June I had several health scares after contracting Epstein-Barr. Once I bounced back from that, I found out I had three tumors in my liver. I had to undergo countless tests. It turned out to be non-cancerous, but I had to go through a few more tests to determine if it would leave me unable to have children safely. Good news is, I can. Then, I found out I have dormant Lupus. Wee. Another autoimmune disease.
Publishing The Living God was a painful experience. It almost made me give up on writing. It was emotionally exhausting, unpredictable, and unpleasant. There is so much I want to say about the publisher but they own the rights to my work for the next 10 years and I don’t want to jeopardize it’s already limited visibility. I will say this: Publishing with them connected me to brilliant, talented writers–writers I feel lucky to know. They have been there for me through this entire process and pulled me back from the edge multiple times. Connecting with them was the second best thing to come out of this messy experience, aside from the fact I can now say I’m a published author.
However, if I had to do it all over again… if I could climb into a time machine and do it all again, I’d walk away.
I’d find another avenue.
Yes, my book got some exposure. They put it before bookstagrammers and bloggers, and it’s in a few stores in my region. But, the process was handled poorly. It took three years for TLG to get published, and by the time I realized I wanted out, it was honestly way too late. I was too far down the rabbit hole. I stuck it out because I wasn’t entirely confident refunds would go out to all of my backers after three years. People change banks. People stop checking email accounts. In the end, everything they’ve done for my book so far, I could’ve accomplished with a Kickstarter and Fiverr account.
It worked out, despite it all. The book is out. It isn’t the best it could be, but it is a story I love and a touchstone for growth. I should have taken one more stab at editing, but I just wanted everything to be over. I wanted out of the experience so badly I didn’t see everything I still needed to fix. I wanted people to have what they paid for and the ability to move on. I felt like a hostage with everyone else’s money on the line. When the book launched, I didn’t feel joy. I didn’t feel the ecstatic “new parent” feeling most authors get. I tried but the whole process had soured so badly, I couldn’t even take joy at finally being done.
I didn’t feel pride. I didn’t feel excited about my publishing future. I’d even come to hate my story, and I’ve loved this story and worked on it for over a decade. It took so long to move past those feelings. Even now, it’s hard for me to get excited about my upcoming book signings. It’s hard for me to push my book and market it and hope people read it, even though I’ve heard wonderful things about it.
Through all of this, I learned a valuable lesson: listen to your motherforking gut and don’t take shit from anyone who doesn’t see your worth or who treats you poorly. THAT’S IT. THAT’S THE 2019 MOTTO.
Listen to your gut. Don’t take shit off anyone who can’t see your worth. Life is toooooo fucking short.
Not every author’s experience with their publisher will be the same. There are many, many success stories from mine. I’m, unfortunately, not one of them.
I struggled to get back on the writing horse after working with someone who made me feel less than I was, made me feel like I didn’t deserve to be published or that I couldn’t hack it as an author.
Even now, while I’m working on my new projects, there is this damaging voice in the back of my head whispering I’m not good enough and I’ll never be good enough. That it’s all a wasted effort. No one will enjoy what I create, so why try?
My goal for 2020 is to prove the voice wrong by pouring everything I am into my stories and art. By reading more, writing more, watching videos, and listening to podcasts on writing. I’ll grow. I’ll improve. I’ll keep going. I’ll binge less Netflix shows.
Because I love writing. It brings me joy. It keeps me sane. My first book may not be perfect, but it proved to me what I’ve always really known: I was born to be a writer. Even if I never make a dime.