Growing up, my dream was to be a singer. I went to college on a vocal performance scholarship but quickly realized I disliked the constant competition and auditioning. I saw that pinning my hopes and dreams on someone else’s opinion was a quick path to not being able to put food on the table.
So halfway through my freshman year, I dropped my vocal performance major with little idea what I wanted to do with my life. I took career assessments to see where my skills and interests met up. I’d taken these tests in the past, and I’ve taken them since. One thing I can say, I’m fairly consistent. What I always got was actor, artist, writer, singer, dancer, teacher, counselor, psychologist, and editor.
Never once in my life did I want to be a teacher, so I did not shift over to music education. I ended up on the path to being a Marriage and Family Therapist.
In our new city and state, I took a very part-time job as a teacher because that was the only job available. The next year I worked as a home visitor, doing in-home sessions with families, which was my focus in grad school. It was a good fit. My final year in that job, I was pregnant with my daughter.
My kiddo was born mid-July, and I had planned on going back to work in the fall. That didn’t happen because kiddo needed multiple operations. She was in the PICU for two months, the NICU for several more, and when she wasn’t in ICU, she was out on the pediatric floor. In the end, she was in and out of the hospital for over a year.
When I first learned of kiddo’s diagnoses and called my employer to tell them I couldn’t come back to work until October, I was told I no longer had a job…with a brand new baby, who ended up being a million dollar baby in a matter of months.
In January I took another teaching job, 2 evenings a week in towns 15 and 30 miles from home. My new boss allowed me to bring kiddo with me on the job. I was teaching parents of infants-preschoolers, after all, so she ended up being one of the kids enrolled in the class while I did my parent education in the room next door. It was a pretty sweet deal.
The next school year, they asked me back for more classes. I doubled my hours, and a month later, I was hired by another school district. Eventually, kiddo and I were going to eight classes a week and putting a solid 400 miles on the car each week.
Then we moved from our small town back to the city, so my mileage increased again. Kiddo was a great traveler and we had lots of fun driving, but we live in Minnesota. Snowy roads, much of the time, and our drives were at prime deer feeding times. I worried about accidents. The last thing I wanted to do was risk my daughter’s life for a job I never wanted in the first place.
I looked into doing family therapy again, but that would’ve meant working full time. Kiddo sometimes needed me at the drop of a hat, so I ended up letting that idea go, promising myself I’d come back to it once kiddo’s life was more stable.
The following school year I was hired in my city. Kiddo went to preschool and eventually elementary school. I started writing for fun. And I worked as a parent educator just a few miles from home.
Again, I never wanted to be a teacher, but I taught for sixteen years so I could have a schedule similar to my kid’s. A few years ago, I quit teaching to take a stab at being a full-time author. That meant inviting in all those things that had me running away from being a singer. It meant “performing” but in a very different way.
At least when I was singing, I had proof that I was skilled, something to fall back on. Musical professionals told me I had what it took to make it, which was reinforced with awards, scholarships, and honors.
I had none of that when it came to writing, but I took the leap. I submitted my first book to my publisher and then another. They kept signing me, so I figured I was doing something right. What, I’m not exactly sure. I’m still not sure five years later, but I keep busking for change by putting out more books.
In order for books to sell, they must first be noticed. To be noticed, I have to get reviewers to read them. Or give a few away. Or write an amazing tagline and pay for a fantastic cover to encourage people to click BUY. I need people talking about my books so other people will give them a chance.
It’s not as easy as singing on the street corner and grabbing the attention of passersby. There’s no applause after I type The End. No one is there to tell me I did a good job. Yes, there are reviews, but those are not written for authors; they’re for potential readers. And I do my best to avoid them, even good reviews. Especially bad ones. They can put me off my writing game for weeks because self-doubt too easily creeps in.
Writing is a very lonely job, very different from singing and teaching. I’m unable to see where I’m hitting my mark or where I’m totally losing someone. I don’t know if my stories have left someone with a book hangover or if they read The End, shrug, and then move on to another book, never thinking about my characters again.
I want to give people book hangovers. I don’t know if I do because I’m sitting behind a keyboard and a screen, blind to how my stories affect people.
Being so isolated makes me miss the stage. It makes me miss teaching. But only in a nostalgic way. I’m done living in the spotlight. See, it’s the spotlight part of writing I don’t like; the marketing is hell on my soul.
And I’ve come to see a pattern emerge.
😁 Write > Edit > Rewrite > Edit > Format > Proof > Finalize
Marketing 🔆 😑 😒 😔 ❓
After I hit publish, there is always a huge let-down. The act of being done is disappointing, partly because of the huge build up to publication day. *Cue sad trumpet* Then the marketing begins. The spotlight shines in my eyes, blinding me to the story I wrote and making me look, instead, to the audience.
And as a writer, if I’m too focused on the audience, I’ll lose sight of why I wrote the story in the first place. If I’m paying too much attention to what readers think, that changes how I write my next story.
It also makes me play to the person in Row 3, Seat 17 or the group in Section C rather than to the entire auditorium. I end up pinning my hopes and dreams and self-worth on someone else’s opinion.
And that’s no way to write.
So today, for old time’s sake, I’m going to get in the car with my kiddo and drive. We’re going to talk and look at the beautiful, snowy landscape slipping by. We’re going to talk about the story she’s currently writing and listen to her favorite songs. We’re going to do mother/daughter things.
And that whole time, I’m going to be thinking about how grateful I am that I get to write. I work from home, have a flexible schedule, and can call the shots, like taking an afternoon drive to the Mississippi River and back.
I love to write and I’m going to keep on with it, likely for many years to come. Someday I’m going to figure out how to get through the week after a book release without wanting to hide under a rock. Maybe I’ll master that with my next book. Maybe it will take another eighteen. Who knows?
But today I drive.