I’m eating my lunch in the company kitchen. It is a wholesome lunch, nutritious and just enough to satisfy my hunger without leaving me sleepy. I’m telling you about my lunch because I have no idea how to start this post. A group of co-workers discusses the upcoming Thai New Year, and I set aside the laptop to prepare my salad. The fridge here has the habit of turning my homemade herb-and-lemon flavored olive oil dressing into a congealed, light green mass speckled with lavender buds, snips of marjoram, and piney threads of rosemary. I cross the room to microwave my dressing. Ten seconds on the clock and someone calls out to me.
“How’s the book going?”
“It’s going well,” I say. “It’s five hundred pages and still going.”
“Wow! I meant the book you have for sale, how’s that going. I didn’t know you were writing another.”
“Writing’s what I do. Selling? Not so much.”
“Is the new one a sequel to STOLEN CLIMATES, part of a series?”
“It is the first in a series, but it is not a direct sequel.”
Another person said, “I’m too scared to read your book; I heard it was scary.”
“I didn’t think it was that scary,” I say, retrieving my salad dressing from the microwave.
“Well, maybe scary isn’t the right word. Just, you know, people are like, “Is that what goes on in her mind?”
“People always think that because I wrote the book, I thought it up, but I’m as surprised as anyone with what happens. The ideas aren’t ‘in’ my head, they sort of come from somewhere out here.” I wave the hand that is not holding my salad dressing somewhere beyond my right ear. “I guess that sounds crazy.”
“No,” a third person says. “It sounds brilliant.”
The one who started the conversation smiles and says, “The most creative things do come from crazy people. Music, art… Have you seen MISERY? Someone might kidnap you and force you to write.”
“If they give me good food and a comfortable bed, that can work for me,” I say.
There is a slight pause in conversation, as there always is at a quarter past the hour. The woman who is afraid to read my book broke the silence. “Did you write much when you were on vacation in Hawaii?”
“Not at all.”
“I discovered that when it is so beautiful, when everything is so good, I have no drive. Why create something when you are already in a perfect moment? I’m writing now that I’m home, though.”
And the writing has been amazing. The book is far longer and more complex than I could have imagined at the outset, and far more intriguing. I am at the stage where I can see everything, how all the details I didn’t understand are coming together to form the whole. The book is as real to me now as the work that I do during the day, or the people who were talking to me in the lunch room. I catch glimpses of people in the halls or passing me in traffic, and I think for an instant I’ve seen one of my characters. I love this phase of writing a novel. This is why I do it. The knowledge of this feeling – this utter completeness – this is what pulls me through the doubt and confusion that come with writing a book. It is a rush.
My attitude towards writing has reverted to something more pure than it was when I started this book. If you are a long time reader, you know I started out with a specific plan, complete with publication goals and strategic marketing. When I realized I wasn’t going to make the first goal, I dropped out of the internet. I spent two months living my life, not writing, not blogging, not thinking about publication. I made some major lifestyle changes, and as my well-being improved, I gained clarity. I do not have to stick to plans driven by publication. I do not have to blog weekly. I do not have to build a brand, or build my bookshelf, or market what I write. What I need to do is simple: eat healthfully, sleep well, laugh, and write for the joy of it. It is all so very, very simple. It took months of changing one small thing at a time to get to this point. I have finally stopped framing my decisions and goals in ways that inhibit my natural trajectory towards being exactly who I am meant to be.
As a result, I am not planning to self-publish my book when it is finished. I am going to send it to traditional publishing houses, and while it makes the year(s)-long rounds, write the next book(s) in the series. If I get to the end of the series and no one is interested, then I’ll consider self-publishing.
The fact is that I am not good at being an indie. I don’t have any drive towards the post-production/after-writing aspects of being indie. I went that route with STOLEN CLIMATES because the thought of the submission process sounded stifling, and everyone pointed out how I’d make less with a traditional contract. However, that concept only applies if you’re making money. I’ve never even come close to recouping the production costs of STOLEN CLIMATES. Some days, I consider pulling it out of publication all together, which would really amount to unpublishing on Amazon. After more than a year, I still haven’t made STOLEN CLIMATES available on all platforms (read: B&N, Apple, etc). I never even got around to making a print version. And I have no interest in doing those things on my own.
I will never be a successful indie.
And that’s okay, because I understand now how much the act of labeling myself poisoned my ability to focus on writing. I was so worried with all the things an indie must do to be successful, that I couldn’t see the sheer simplicity of living to write, as opposed to living to write something to sell. I still want to share the stories I create, but now I am willing to see if I can find a partner to help me do that. Maybe I won’t, but I believe in what I’m doing. The best part of all of this is that waiting for responses from publishers won’t matter because while I am waiting, I will still be writing.
That is what I wanted to say. It took a frozen block of olive oil and some random conversation, but I’ve managed to find the words. I am no longer who I thought I was.