Rachel and I at Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta Canada 2022. Yes, the lake is that exact turquoise color.
I stopped writing about five years ago. Something I never thought would happen.
I had just returned from a writers’ conference in Dallas. While my one-sheet for my then work-in-progress hadn’t cornered a new agent or big publisher, I was asked to send the completed manuscript when it was finished. But sometime shortly after that my successful writing career stalled. Its engine sputtered, clanged, rolled and bumped to the side of the road. Maybe a little smoke wafted off to a lifeless prairie. Can you hear the coyotes howl?
“Why?” You ask. “Why did you stop a successful writing career?”
Firstly, let’s define successful. My books had won a number of awards. No small amount of critical acclaim for which I was proud. Yes, proud. Pride does not insinuate that one has a big head, nor is it an emotion to be ashamed of. Pride is simply this: “A feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements…”
I was happy, fulfilled, that my writing had produced six books of quality. I considered that success. And royalties you ask…
A tumbleweed rolls past.
By the time you count the dollars I spent on marketing I probably broke even. My success with small publishing houses had garnered little monetary reward. Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost gratitude to the small houses that published me, but it’s a tough business out there, and small houses don’t reach readers in the same way big houses do.
Still, that didn’t bother me. Success to me has little to do with royalties. The issue was simply, BURN-OUT. My writing engine was toast, steaming slightly by the side of the road, and I had no desire to even turn the ignition key.
You see, while I love, love, love the creative process of writing a full-length novel, I hate, hate, hate marketing. I cringed every time I promoted my books on social media. I hated the time spent on fruitless newsletters and writing guest blog posts. Other authors do so much better at marketing their own books than I do. I admire their stick-to-it-tive-ness. But in me, it's something that really goes against the grain. And I wanted to simply write and be a normal person. I needed a break.
As time passed, the almost complete outline for my current book gathered dust. And I didn’t care.
I was living, not trying to balance a part-time job, care for my elderly mother, and squeeze time in with my husband as he approached retirement, or play with my grandchildren.
Gosh, the freedom was exhilarating.
But as I reached my own retirement something wonderful happened. Time! Luxurious time just for me. Would I take up an old hobby: water-color painting, perhaps?
Or blow the dust off my half completed novel?
That’s when my best friend and critique partner, Rachel, came for a visit. Rachel, too, had recently retired (early for her). For almost seven days we talked about writing. Cold embers stirred. Discarded coals glowed. Okay, that doesn’t quite match up with my engine metaphor, but for the first time in five years I wanted to slip the key into the ignition and turn it.
I’ve picked up my work-in-progress. The coyotes are gagged silent, and the birds in my backyard are singing the hallelujah chorus. I have no idea if an agent or publisher of a large house will take it up once it’s completed, but I don’t care. I’m writing. I’m loving every word that appears on my laptop screen. I'm writing this book for me.
I hope you’ll rejoin Rachel and I as we both focus on our current novels. In addition to that we are restarting our blog, Novel Renaissance to encourage you too along the way.