I took a break from all things writing in August.
I didn’t put any copies of The Cube into Little Free Libraries.
I didn’t submit any queries to agents for my (hopefully-to-be-published) second book, The Stories We Choose Not to Tell.
I didn’t write any chapters of The IT Girl on Channillo.
I didn’t attend any writing events. I didn’t engage with the writing community too much on social media.
I had to step back. I had to.
Why you might ask?
Because I was starting to wonder why I was doing it all in the first place. I’m sure this is common among many writers, but I was getting so negative. Writing, this thing that I loved more than anything, was eating away at my happiness.
Perhaps, most importantly, I had to realize, maybe for the first time, that writing is never going to be my career. And, that I don’t want it to be. I like working in IT. Love it actually. That writing was and is something entirely different for me. No less an equal part, but not a profession. The time it took me to come to that realization was long and grinding.
In fact, the whole experience of writing had become painful, even in the happiest parts of the experience. The pain of watching as The Cube succeeded in an amazing Little Free Library challenge… but because libraries are cute and people are incredibly generous and kind and everyone loves a challenge and NOT because the book itself was going viral. I had to realize that I had dreams of it being the next The Martian… self-published book goes mainstream and is an international best seller… that only happens once in a lifetime. And, it already happened… to The Martian. And, that my dark thoughts were clouding the truly amazing light of what the Little Free Library challenge was. It was incredible. I had to be able to see that.
The pain of submitting to agents for book number two and getting rejection letter after rejection letter… even when these rejections were of a different quality, kind and encouraging… still knowing that the industry is 100% set up for you to get rejected. That it’s expected. Normal. Mundane even. That it’s celebrated when someone says, ‘I submitted to over 200 agents before I found the right one.’ And, that you have nowhere near the strength or energy for 200 submissions. When you know that the fate of your book relies completely on the subjective. It’s no wonder so many people don’t even try to get traditionally published and just, from the get go, self-publish. I have to tell you, I’m almost there.
The pain of trying to find scraps of time to write chapters of a weekly series, praying that there’s some type of continuity from week to week since there’s absolutely no continuity in when the chapters are written - lunch breaks, 15 minutes in between meetings, early morning sentences, exhausted pushes on a Monday night for a Tuesday launch.
The pain of realizing that people know me as a writer, but that the majority of my time is spent in the world of IT and that I don’t ever really talk about that. I’m a woman in IT management - no small feat - and instead of celebrating that, I’m churning and agonizing about whether or not I’ll ever make it as a writer.
All of these became so mixed up and so negative - which is not who I am, I try with every fiber of my being to be a positive person - that there was only one logical conclusion. I had to take a break. I had to take a break so that I could remember why I was even doing it in the first place. Why I was putting myself through this. Why I write.
And, a few amazing things happened.
My mother, husband and my daughter read my second book from start to finish, and loved it. Encouraged me, told me it has to be published so that other people can read it.
I got a few rejection letters for my second book too, but it kind of showed me that even when I take a break the world continues to move on… in some way validating that breaks are okay. That it wasn’t the end of the world if I took time off… that the wheels of what I’ve already set in motion will keep turning.
I had people continue to find The IT Girl on Channillo, and let myself really feel how much I truly missed writing it.
I looked at Little Free Libraries and craved putting books in, realizing it wasn’t just a fad but had become something I truly enjoy doing. And more than that, I had so many people tell me how much they loved following along with it, asking me what was next for the challenge. That blew me away. (Spoiler alert: there is no next part to that challenge, but I love that people want there to be!)
And, maybe the best of all, my brain freed up space to think about other things. Big things. I started attending more Women in Tech events, and started sharing that side of myself more. Some friends and I are even working to start a podcast about working in tech (follow along on social media @women_knowit), and I realized that all my years of writing are going to serve us so well in content outlining and script writing. And, that my years of book promotion are going to help tremendously in setting all of that up. That each step of my life’s journey is continuously preparing me for the next.
And, perhaps the most profound of all, I realized that I will always write. That this amorphous identity of “I am a writer,” doesn’t matter at all. The entirety of writing twitter is people grappling with that in some form… even the most successful writers encountering times when they try and justify their books or choices to others. I had to go back to the question I’ve always asked myself - what is my goal? Why am I doing this?
And, after taking a break, the answer became clear. Because I love to write. And I have stories to share. And because I want to hold a book in my hand and say, ‘This is mine, written for you.’ And I don’t need my income to come from that. I don’t need fame or international success. It is enough for me that my husband and daughter and my circle of family and friends and colleagues can share in that with me. That. Is. Enough.
So, where does that leave me?
I’m going to continue to send out query letters for book number two for the rest of 2019 or until I reach 30 queries sent, whichever comes first. Mostly because it’s an itch I have to scratch. And, if no one bites, I have an amazing hybrid publisher that I used for my first book that I will use again. The amazing thing about that is that when I look back, that’s the exact goal I set for myself at the beginning of 2019. So, for all the emotional turmoil I’ve put myself through, nothing there has changed. LIFE LESSONS ALL OVER THE PLACE.
I’m going to continue to write The IT Girl because it brings me so much joy.
I’m going to finally be proud of The Cube and put that book in every Little Free Library I come across and let that fill me with joy.
And, I’m going to remember this month off. And, if I ever start to feel that level of negativity come back again, I’m going to take a break again. Because breaks are okay. And needed. And the words will still be there when I get back. The writing will never leave me. Because it’s a part of who I am. Writing is not my career. But, it is, and always will be, a key part of my life.
I told ya’ll this would be a journey. And, it certainly has been. Thanks for continuing to come along with me. More to come. More. To. Come.