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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Friday, June 02, 2006

"Once there was a way to get back homeward..."

by Stephanie Feagan

My mom used to say, "All things are with greater spirit pursued than enjoyed." I'm pretty sure someone famous said that, and I'm also sure I got it wrong, but you get the idea. How many times in your life have you thought, if I could just get this certain thing, or if this particular event would happen, all would be well. If I could lose 20 pounds, life would be great. If I could get this credit card paid off, everything would be okay. If I can marry Tom, Dick, or Harry, my life will be complete. If I could just have a baby, I'd have nirvana. A car. A house. A dream.

We all have them. Some call them goals, some call them dreams. But we all think our life will drastically change once we get there.

It's not until we're older that we realize, it's all bullshit. Not that we shouldn't strive for what we want, what we need, but to think we, as human beings, will be any different for having achieved something, is total bullshit. We are who we are, and no matter how much money we make, or how many pounds we lose, or how much success we gain, we're still the same person, with the same hang-ups and fears and longings.

I used to think, if I could just sell a book, I'll be there. It consumed me, the dream of becoming published. I imagined that I'd be admired and liked. I'd be able to walk away from my CPA practice, never to have to wrangle with the IRS or pain in the ass clients again. I'd be respected by my friends and family. And I'd gain respect and admiration from my fellow writers, published and unpublished, big names and midlists and newbies. I'd be somebody. I'd have money. I'd be doing what I love most in the world - writing. Ah yes, my life would be perfect.

Fast forward to now, with 3 books published, 1 under contract, and here's the skinny on what it's really like.

I'm admired and liked pretty much the same as I was before. If anything, maybe a little less, because people I thought were friends couldn't get past anger and jealousy that I sold, and they didn't. Never saw that coming.

I'm still wrangling with the IRS and pain in the ass clients because I have 2 daughters in college and I'm not making enough money from the books to support them. If I sell a great many more books for lots more money, I can still maybe lose the CPA thing, but that's a long, long way off. Now, instead of just worrying about tax deadlines, I have to worry about book deadlines. My whole damn life is ruled by deadlines.

My nonwriting friends and my family admire and respect me exactly as much as they admired and respected me before - with all the same expectations. Have lunch with me - whatdya mean you can't? Oh, you can write any time - come to lunch. You need to eat, after all. Mom, I need you to help me fill out this job application. Stef, we're supposed to have dinner with my family. Stef, would you come to Dallas and help me redecorate the house? Could you go with me on a road trip to Nova Scotia? Mom, could you look after the dog while I run an errand? Mom, will you look over this apartment lease? Stef, we really need to look into consolidating the school loans - the rates are going up. Oh, sure, we know you have a deadline, but this is important!

As for all those other authors, I'm still about as important, liked and respected as I was before I published three books. In other words, I'm still a nobody. But I've discovered that this isn't something that means diddly squat to me any longer. Women I admired, who I thought would be so great to get to know, aren't. Imagine my disappointment to find out the people at the top of the mountain are pretty much like the ones at the bottom. Some are nice, some aren't. This was brought home to me in a very painful way at the NINC conference in New Orleans. It was a life-altering moment when I realized my company wasn't wanted. Yes, I was ditched, sending me back to junior high, with all the same feelings of self-consciousness and sadness that I wasn't included. I sat in my hotel room and cried, and ordered a cheeseburger from room service and swore to myself I'd never, ever feel like that again. I came home and went nomail on almost all of my lists and concentrated on the writing. I decided I have enough writer friends - women who liked and respected me before I sold, who'll still like and respect me whether I become rich and famous, or never sell another book. Because friendship isn't about what we are so much as who we are. I like to think I'm a good friend, supportive and compassionate and there for my friends when they need me.

At the end of it all, nothing matters so much as love and friendship. I had that long before I sold my first book, and I'll have it as long as I live, come what may.

What do you know? I'm a big success, after all.


At 9:22 PM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

you are a huge success. I'm in awe of all you do, juggling home, work, writing, AND your RWA service. It still breaks my heart that those people were so unkind to you.
Plus you have the most entertaining stories of your road trips of anyone I know!

At 9:55 PM, Blogger Tori Scott said...

Stef, we've always been behind you 100%, and always will be. The rest of the world just doesn't know what they're missing. Don't let 'em get you down. It's their loss.

At 10:04 AM, Blogger Stephanie Feagan said...

Aw, thanks, you guys!

You know, after I reread this blog, it occurred to me that I may sound a bit negative about selling, and I certainly am not. At all. It really has been a dream come true for me. It just didn't turn me into a different person. Sadly, I still have 20 pounds too much, saggy boobs, and bad habits. :)

I also failed to say that one thing did change, and perhaps that's the biggest of all. I can now write without guilt. Well, almost. Once you sell, it's a lot easier to tell family and friends "No." Not that I always do, even when I should, but I feel justified when I say no.

At 3:36 PM, Blogger bridget said...

You tell 'em, Stef. Of course you're a success. And sorry, but you're seriously misrepresenting yourself in the letters section here. Folks, Stef is a *striking* silvery blonde with a voice like wild honey, and a personality that lights up the room.

At 7:33 PM, Blogger Janice Lynn said...

Stef, I love this post because it brings up so many valid points. Not that I agree with you being a nobody, cause, honey, YOU ARE SOMEONE!!! A very, very important someone to a lot of people--myself included. I love you bunches & could punch anyone who makes you cry---can you send me names & numbers??? ;) Okay, so I'm not really the violent kind of gal, but I think I could learn to me in cases like this.

& I soooooo agree with Bridget's description of you. I don't think there's ever been a time I've seen you that my heart didn't warm & my lips didn't smile--you're just that kind of person. A good one.

At 2:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You didn't sound negative, Stef, you sounded honest. We do hold out selling as some kind of holy grail. I mean, if we didn't, then we wouldn't be trying so desperately to write for publication. We'd either give it up completely or simply write for our own pleasure.

When we do sell, our expectations change because the landscape of our universe has suddenly changed. Unfortunately some people in that universe don't. Or they show their true colours and we feel let down and a tad disappointed. It isn't all good in that new landscape, it isn't all positive, no matter how much we wish it would be, or thought it might be, once we sold. And it isn't about making you a different person! We don't want a different person, we want you! If other ninnies don't get it, that's their problem.

So hold on to the good stuff. That's always there. Friends who love you, friends who support you. And we think you're always a success. And like Bridget says, a gorgeous one to boot!

Trish Mo, in my anonymous guise yet again

At 3:55 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

You are a big success, Stef. And you're right, I liked you before you got published and I still think you're great. I don't understand writers who have anger and jealousy after a writer friend publishes. Sure, a small pang here and there when you first see that someone else got the call, doesn't matter who it is, but anger and jealousy? Nah. Immature. Stupid. I love your post, but I've always enjoyed all your posts over the years. It does make me mad that those people ditched you. You couldn't pay me to relive my high school days. I will never understand people like that. Great post!

At 8:50 AM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

I'm catching up on reading posts, and I just want to second everything everyone said here. You're fabulous, Stef, one of my very favorite people.


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