Sometimes in life we pursue something doggedly for all the wrong reasons, but are still fortunate enough to come out on top.
That's been my writing career in a nutshell, and has to be proof of something bigger out there that has our backs.
My big quest was writing three different books in three different genres, despite advice from some very big names in the publishing world. The books each came out to great reviews from literary critics and loads of fan mail, which I took as an affirmation that I was unique. Really, I was just scared and arrogant.
Only one thing was missing, the money.
It's easy to say it doesn't matter, but even a middle class lifestyle is very expensive, and after a while, the low sales became hard to ignore. I was learning the hard way that there is a consequence for everything.
I've been a writer for more than 20 years now, and I've even gotten to write for some great big city newspapers and eventually became a syndicated columnist with a nationwide audience. That all sounds great, on the surface.
Frankly, most everyone who hears about what I've accomplished quickly starts to ooh and aah with a glint in their eye. The big American dream of writing a novel and having people not only read it, but say they like it. I thought so too, and for a while, despite the insider advice I was given, I continued on my way. I was that sure that in the end I'd be proven right.
Of course, in order to be right, you have to know what it is you're trying to prove. If I had thought to ask myself that little question, I could have shaved a few years off of my old plan.
However, I didn't ask myself too many questions at all. I was busy confusing what I was doing for a living with the definition of who I am, which is so much simpler.
My old thinking meant there were a few things I needed to prove and that took precedence.
Let me tell you, when someone has their self-worth tied up in a project, there will be no swaying them off of their path until they wear themselves out.
It takes a real insider to the publishing game to spot the one large mistake I've made that has quite literally cost me. By switching genres, one right after the other, I built three smaller audiences instead of steadily building one large one.
In publishing a certain amount of stick-to-it has big payoffs. That's probably a good motto for life in general.
There was also no amount of praise that could shut off that yapping little voice in my head. Instead, it got harder for me to climb up the publishing ladder. Fortunately, even talented fools can catch a break.
Thanks to a little jump out of a perfectly good plane and a very patient literary agent, Rachelle Gardner, I started doing things differently.
Two years ago, I went skydiving while on a writing assignment, and when I landed safely I made a promise that day to do whatever my agent, Rachelle, asked me to do, and this time no arguing or cutting corners. First on the list was choosing a genre, thrillers, which was where I started my career with my first novel, "Wired," and sticking with it. Things are not only easier now, but there's a focused plan and my new political thriller, "The List," is in Rachelle's hands.
August 2nd even marks the start of a new blog by all of Rachelle's clients -- www.WordServeWaterCooler.com -- so that we can all pass on what we've learned from years of writing. That was the key all along. Once I learned that it's not all about me, I was able to finally take in some advice and just be of service.
Life is no longer about some magical destination, it's just a journey with a few friends. More adventures to follow.
Tweet me @MarthaRandolph and let me know your questions about making it as a writer. E-mail Martha at Martha@caglecartoons.com.