In 2005 I was on top of the world. My novel had just been published and had me full of expectations. I was all promise. I had no idea that it was the top of the ride and it was all downhill from there. At the summer SCBWI conference, my first, I met a lot of people that I really liked. One of them was Laini Taylor. Another was Jay Asher. When we met, I was the new success and they were still looking for their first break. Now it’s 2009 and Laini has sold a series based on her faeries, and Jay’s debut novel is a New York Times bestseller. After checking out Jay’s novel I realize that it’s the same premise as my second novel, the one that has been rejected by my editor at Simon & Schuster, and Marshall Cavendish. No wonder it’s being rejected. Jay obviously did it much better. And after re-reading my current novel to do the synopsis, I realize it’s not really worth pursuing; this after paying $370 to work on it in a writer’s boot camp.
So I turned my attention to a new subject matter, a non-fiction that has piqued my interest since I worked on Being a Leader and Making Decisions for Chelsea House. I was inspired to do a book about Claudette Colvin, the first woman to refuse to give up her seat on a Montgomery Alabama bus. She came before Rosa Parks. I searched on the internet to see what research there was out there before I tried to contact Ms. Colvin, and found out that someone else wrote a book about her for exactly the age group I would have aimed at, and did extensive interviews with her and others. The book will be released next month.
It’s the nature of the job. I know. It’s just really hard sometimes.
After having a rotten morning where I was running late again, feeling overextended, and facing the dishes, the laundry, the dirty floors, the filthy toilet bowl, the unmade beds and the synopsis I hadn’t finished for the novel I now think is crap, I didn’t need the additional lows of realizing that Jay’s book is the same subject as mine and that my brilliant Colvin idea was already done by a writer with an excellent track record.
I don’t begrudge anyone their success. Laini and Jay and the author of the Colvin book certainly deserve their success and I believe that there is room for everyone’s success. I really do. What I’m really upset about is that I haven’t been able to build on my own success in four years. They put a mirror to my face and I don’t like what’s looking back. It isn’t for a lack of trying. And it is an odd feeling when you realize that your best simply isn’t good enough.
It would certainly be easier to get an office job. Then perhaps I wouldn’t be expected to do the majority of the household chores and hold down my job. And I might get a great deal of satisfaction from doing whatever job I’m doing. Plus I’d feel like I was contributing financially to the family, at least in a more regular way. Freelancing paychecks can be few and far between.
I would welcome quitting, if it were an option. George Orwell once said, “Writing a book is a long exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” My demons compel me to continue.
But let this be a lesson to you. If you can avoid being a writer, do. I honestly don’t think there’s any way to be a writer and a mom of little kids at the same time. It’s impossible. So whatever you do, don’t do it.
Unless of course you have those demons.