Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Turning Point


In a private group I belong to on Facebook, today's question was: "Describe a moment when your life took a turn." I didn't have to think twice about my response.

It was just over 20 years ago. I had just broken off an engagement to a man I fondly refer to as that "asshole-piece-of-shit-bullet-that-I-dodged Jim." I broke off the engagement less than 3 months before the wedding and never regretted my decision. Not. Once. But ending that relationship threw me into a starting-over mode. I got a new job, a new apartment, and even a new city. I hadn't begun my writing career at the time. I was basically doing what a lot of people do: I was working, hanging out with friends, did some charity work, and watched a lot of TV.

The turning point came when I attended a conference. I can't remember the name of the keynote for the life of me, but I remember that he was a paraplegic and that he said something that changed my life forever.

"A goal is a dream that burns in your belly." 

Shortly after that conference, I got out a piece of paper and wrote down all my life's goals. It was a short list, mostly filled with places I wanted to see in the world. But those seemed more like bucket list items than goals. But no matter how many times I drafted the list, only one item kept coming to the top, like cream on fresh milk:  Be a published author.

That was my life's goal. It had always been. When I was a kid, libraries had those huge wooden card catalogs for looking up books. I would take one of the stubby pencils they provided, write my name on a scrap of paper, and insert it into the card catalog where one day I knew it would be. I just knew it! I would also go into book stores, find the place in the fiction section where my books would be shelved alphabetically, and spread the books apart to make room for my future volumes.

Yeah, I was that focused. But somewhere along the line I lost the focus. Oh, once in a while I would start a novel, and soon after I'd give it up. Like a lot of people, I talked about being a writer, and just like most people who talk about it, I did nothing about it but talk. And we all know that talk is cheap if not accompanied by action.

After identifying my life-long goal, I set about to make it a reality. The first step in doing that, whether it be writing, climbing Mount Everest, winning a gold medal in the Olympics, or taking first place in a local garden show, is commitment. 

Let's all say that together: COMMITMENT.

From that moment on, I made the commitment to becoming a published author and took the necessary steps to make it a reality. I set up a place to write. Set aside time to write. Decided what I wanted to write. Researched the proper formatting of manuscripts. I read a couple of books on writing. I did not take any writing classes or join a writers' group. Although I feel both of those things might help many budding writers, I knew I would not grow or flourish in those environments. I armed myself with the tools I needed and set my eye on the goal of finishing my first novel within 12 months.  It took me 9 - like a baby. 

Soon after, I found my first agent and tackled the next step - getting published.

From the time I made my commitment until the time I was published about five years, three manuscripts, and one fired agent were left in the dust. 

My first published novel was TOO BIG TO MISS and it was self-published through iUniverse. I followed that up by self-publishing the 2nd book in the series, THE CURSE OF THE HOLY PAIL. Both were self-publishing successes in a time when self-publishing was a negative, not like it is now where so many authors are flourishing and respected.  

I landed a new agent, who is still my agent to this day, and TOO BIG TO MISS and THE CURSE OF THE HOLY PAIL went on to be traditionally published by Midnight Ink, which also contracted for ten more Odelia Grey novels, as well as launched my Ghost of Granny Apples and Madison Rose Vampire Mystery series.


Twenty years later, I have written and published 20 novels/novellas and seven short stories, and continue to have a growing relationship and contracts with two publishers, as well as some self-published work.

How did I make that happen? What magic beans do I possess?

None!

I identified my goal and made a COMMITMENT to seeing it through.

And you can too.

Anyone can if they want it bad enough.



1 comment:

foolishwriter said...

Excellent post! There is a simple truth in what you say that most aspiring writers, heck artists of any kind seem to forget - You have to work at your art. Commitment to your art and believe in yourself.

A very inspiring word, "Commitment", that I hope to bring back into my life, having lost it for awhile...