"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 And I'd gain respect and admiration from my fellow writers, published and unpublished, big names and midlists and newbies.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.