I recently engaged in an exercise for a class that asked me about the “seasons” of my career. The exercise was a simple one, but I ended up writing pages and pages, and on those pages showed up what was nothing more or less than my Origin Story (all great superheroes have them. As do super villains and evil geniuses. Shut up. All I’m saying is that Wonder Woman and I have never been seen in the same room together. I said, shut up.). Like all good Origin Stories, it’s not a strictly-detailed account or an accurate timeline admissible as evidence in any courtroom in case a jury needed to know if a certain writer had an alibi during any time where narrative homicide may or may not have been committed…
When I compare myself to other writers (not recommended. Actively avoid comparing yourself to anyone else, no matter what you do), I tend to compare myself unfavorably with the writers who’ve produced a lot of titles that have seen the light of day in the same space of time that I’ve produced three. Predictably, I come up short.
What caused me to look at things differently this weekend was that, for the first time, I looked at my own narrative and saw it for what it was, rather than in comparison to someone else’s. You know how Facebook is really just comparing your life to other people’s highlight reel? I got a chance to look at my own highlight reel, and realized that it’s pretty awesome.
More than that, I realized that each step of the way, I made a choice. I have to own that. My decisions not to submit a manuscript to a publisher or agent, for whatever reason, were choices I’d made as much as the choices I’d made to submit other manuscripts to certain markets and disqualify others. And they were choices as much as the decision to write them, as opposed to attempting some other idea churning in my basement coffeepot (Most people have Muses, I have “girls in the basement”–h/t Jenny Crusie — and in the basement, they throw their ideas into a coffeepot. A giant, industrial-sized, silver-urned, caterer-at-fancy-weddings coffee pot. If the brew that comes out the spigot is drinkable, it goes up to my conscious brain (if it’s not, it goes back into the percolator for more caffeine).
In the middle of all this choosing, I’ve experienced Consequences. Not choosing to publish more of my backlist efforts has contributed to my basement-dweller status in Amazon’s ranking system. Choosing to focus on some longer works has meant my release schedule is longer than I would have liked. Not choosing SEO-friendly titles for my books and blog post has surely limited my potential visibility.
By the same token, I’ve experienced some pretty good Consequences, too. I’ve stretched my writing chops further than I would have guessed myself to be ten years ago, or even five. And some of that stuff I chose to work on, in spite of there being no market for it at the time, has suddenly had barriers fall away.
The sage voices in indie publishing all say that this is a long game, and I’ve recently had the pleasure of getting a glimpse of that. I’m humbled, awed, and pants-wettingly excited about it all at the same time. I can’t wait for what comes next, and for the first time, I feel like I can share that with the world.