Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Dream Is to Be an Author

If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean-buyer.
If you're a pretender come sit by my fire,
for we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in! Come in!

- Shel Silverstein

I dream of being an author. Of writing a book that people buy. One that is on the New York Times Bestsellers list. One that is translated into fourteen languages. One people recommend for book club and share with their friends. I dream of signing autographs at Barnes & Noble and telling Katie Couric exactly what inspired me. I dream of a rustic yet spacious cabin in the woods where I can afford to live full time and write away. I have much free time and free money to spend with my family. And my job is wonderful because it is writing books.

It's a dream that is so big that it scares the pants off me. What's yours? We all have them.

Have they been been placed in a dusty corner of your mental attic? (I've done that.)

Have you told yourself that you had to trade it for "different" dreams? (I've done that.)

Have you told yourself they are too silly? That dreams like that are just for children? (I've done that.)

Have you pushed them way into the future, telling yourself "someday"? (I've done that.)

Have you told yourself that you are too old, that you missed your chance? (I've done that.)

Have you told yourself that dreams are all they will ever be? It's great to have dreams but they never come true? (I've done that. A lot.)

I can't even number the amount of novels I have started. Two or three chapters in and a little voice begins to tell me, "This is stupid. No one would ever read this. You're wasting your time."

But dreams don't die easily. They don't slip away quietly in the night, gently stop breathing, and pass into the great void of dead dreams. No, dreams are violent. They bleed. They scream. They thrash. And if you ever manage to truly kill a dream, it haunts you. Forever.

Okay, so that got a little gothic.

After countless book beginnings, I finally got to a middle. I was shocked at myself. So shocked that I kept writing. And eventually, I got an end. I wrote an entire novel. I let some select people read it. It had to be so careful. Dreams are powerful, but awfully fragile. I was scared to share this sacred bit of my soul with people. It meant so much to me. All along I had been telling myself how stupid and lame it was. Could I cope if people who cared about me said the same thing?

But I powered through. I have read some pretty crappy books myself. I figured if publishers are printing pretty crappy books, why not print mine? I got positive feedback from my friends and family - although I know the audience was biased. :)

I began the next step. Finding an agent to represent the book. I sent out my query letters. Rejection. Rejection. Rejection. I thought each rejection would chip away at my resolve and break my heart. Was I disappointed? Sure. But it didn't kill me like I thought it would.

And then came an email. A certain agency wanted to read more of the manuscript! I was walking on air!!! I stayed up all night polishing my novel. I was so stoked. How much would they offer me? $30,000? $50,000? $400,000? I emailed it in. And they didn't want it after all.

I waited a few months and queried agents again. Three times an agent requested a partial draft. And three times I was turned away.

If you are hoping this story has a happy ending like me saying "I'm getting published!" you're not gonna get that.

I shelved that book for awhile. It's always extremely hard for a new author to be published, but even more so in a down economy when publishers only want to invest in proven authors.

The moral of this story is...I am writing again. A new novel. I have actually been working on it for about two years. It's a little closer to home for me, emotionally. I can feel myself eeking into the copy. And I am emotionally exhausted after I finish a writing session. I am in this story even more so than the last one. It is painful to write it. It will be painful to have it rejected. But it's me.

The point I am trying to make is this: I am SO PROUD of myself for writing an entire novel. For believing in it enough to send it out. I have read and filed away 29 rejection emails. That doesn't count the agencies who never bothered to formally reject me. And despite that, I still write and I still dream.

It is really, really scary to try to actualize a dream. REALLY frightening. If you don't do anything, you can always lie to yourself and say "If I really put my mind to it, I could've {insert dream}." We feign flippancy, pretending we don't care so we don't have to face failure.

How many people want to be authors? A lot. A LOT! How many people have actually fully written a book and submitted it to publishers? A lot less. And I am one of them. The failure feels good. And I will own it any day because it means I am not too scared to try.

And I am trying again. I am confident someday one of my crappy books will be selling at Barnes & Noble. Or even on the discount shelf at Shopko

Tell me {because they are more powerful in writing} what is your dream?

P.S. I have to add a post script. I meant to include this with the post, but it slipped my brain between bath time and bedtime of the kidlet. A very good friend - a friend named Keith who already commented on this post and may not even read this post script - gave me the most motivating advice I have ever, ever received. He told me over a decade ago "There are only two questions in life: what do you want? and how bad do you want it?"

The first question is easy to answer. It's the second question that always gets me. Do I want it bad enough to do something about it? Some things I say no to. But this dream is something I want bad enough that I'll crank out the time and risk the rejection. Repeatedly. That is how bad I want it.

Keith, I will forever be indebted for you for this treasure of wisdom.


Keith J. Akre said...

Excellent post, Lara, for a multitude of reasons of which I will name two.

First, the biggest obstacle people face in realizing their goals is loss of motivation. When the great big idea gets into the painstaking details, and doubt creeps in, motivation tends to fall off a cliff. People need constant motivational refreshers, and this serves as an excellent one.

Second, this reminds me of some advice I was given a long time ago, and which is echoed by the likes of Malcolm Gladwell and Miley Cyrus. This is that the act of persuing our dreams and reaching as far out on the limb as we can, we actually become much better climbers over time. In other words "its the climb".

For the record, my dream is to be an internationally known investment consultant. I want to be on CNBC to add my two cents to the market commentary, and maybe one day write a book. At least I know who to tap to be my ghost-writer. Congrats by the way on finishing your book. I would someday like to read it.

Mom on the Go said...

Love it! I think it's amazing that there are people out there that can develop a story and the characters and write an entire novel. I LOVE to read, but I don't think I would be that good developing a story and characters of my own.
I don't know if I really have a dream, but this got me thinking........ I will let you know when I figure it out.

Vanessa said...

Blast! I just typed a long comment and then Blogger said it couldn't complete my request and my comment is gone!

Well, I think my comment went something like this:

Loved this post, Lara! You are inspiring. I, too, would love to read your work some time- I miss being your proofreading buddy. But I also recognize how hard it is to allow people to read something that is so much a part of you -writing is very personal.

I've only had one dream that lasted longer than a year and I am living it right now. From the time I was little, I dreamed of being a mom. Every day my two little ones fulfill that dream in ways I could not have imagined before. I realize that I need to have another dream to carry me through once they have grown, but I'm not sure what that is yet. It was once to be a teacher who made a difference-that one teacher that was the turning point in someone's life. Maybe that's still it, but that's kind of a difficult dream to measure. I'll have to keep thinking about that.

Rachel said...

So we have the same dream.

And I'm so impressed at you for having written an entire novel and worked to get it published. And you're writing another one! You are AMAZING.

I get SO panicky when I think about writing a book, doing that thing I've always wanted to do. I'm so afraid it will be so ridiculously bad. Even just reading your post about writing a novel made my legs feel all hollow with fear.

But I've been formulating ideas in my head and slowly, slowly working up the courage to approach the keyboard with it.

I shall have to follow your lead and just plunge in and DO IT.

Emily said...

I know that one day I will read one of your books and then I can say "Hey! I knew her in college!" and that will be my link to what I am saying is KEEP WRITING so that I can one day have that small connection to fame :)

Plus, after reading your blog for a while now, YOU ARE A WRITER!!

Alicia said...

I love your dream. I love to read but have never dreamed of being an author. What I want someday is to invest in real estate to the point that I no longer have to have a "paycheck" take care of my family. I just want everyone else to pay rent to take care of my family. How crazy greedy and selfish is that? No seriously, there is something about investing, especially in real estate, that just gets me excited. I know it won't happen for a while, but in the meantime I can study it and learn from others...and that's what I do.

Rachel said...

Also, I read something somewhere by some famous author that said that you should wallpaper a small room with your rejection the time you've covered the whole thing, you'll be published.

Ashley said...

I have the same dream. And I don't really know where it came from, but I decided this year's the year. I'm going to write a book before I turn 30 in November. I'll probably be blogging about it soon. But like you said, it's more powerful in writing so I'm starting to tell everyone. Anyway, I admire your courage about the whole thing.

Whitney said...

It's like you read my mind. I have definitely given each of those excuses and then some. I love to write, but have told myself that I'm not good at it. That I'm not original enough. That nothing will come of my hard work.
I have files and files filled with the beginnings of books. I've only finished one and have my own set of rejection letters to show for it.
So I guess I understand in a small way where you're coming from. But I love what you had to say. You, my friend, have a gift with words. I know that one day, you will get your dream. And when you do, I will buy your book!


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