The saga continues.
Under the circumstances, having just graduated from college, I took the first JOB I was offered. The dream of becoming a novelist got tossed into a box. Years passed in a haze of paychecks, office politics, and settling into a work routine that included a mind-numbing forty-five-minute commute in traffic the likes I had never before seen. I was sitting down in my cube one morning when it hit me, I really didn’t want to do this for the rest of my life.
I flashed back to an earlier experience where I had just survived a similar 45-minute commute, and was settling into my cube when the boss casually dropped a newspaper article on my desk. The title of the article? “Dressing for Success” or some other such nonsense. I'm "assuming" he was trying to drop a subtle hint that my business casual attire was more casual than business.
Unphased, I read through the article. It told me nothing I didn’t already know but one of the tips jumped out at me, “Dress for the position you want, not the position you have.” I highlighted that line and wrote a note to my boss on a post-it that I strategically stuck underneath the line. My note read, “If I dress for the position I want, I’d come in every day wearing my fuzzy robe, comfy pajamas, and slippers because what I really want to do is stay at home and write.” I gave the article and post-it back to my boss. He left me alone after that. The feeling of wanting to earn a living from my storytelling did not.
Back to not wanting to do the cube farms for the rest of my life...the post-it note situation was already over five years old and yet there I was, still in a cube farm, working for corporate America and getting small reprimands about my clothes. Definitely, a hint and a half to get moving on my dream. Another was the advent of the internet, and the rise of online publications that by then had opened doors to writers who back in the day were left to fight Hunger Games style for a chance at being published. I had entered the fray and submitted my cadre of standard query letters to lists upon lists of agents, and publishing houses I thought would leap at the opportunity to publish my work. I'd been left dead on the field so to speak; the body of my submissions stabbed to death with the arrows of rejection slips.
It was through a random internet search about the publishing business that I came across an article regarding self-publishing that DID NOT involve paying thousands of dollars to a vanity press. It outlined the basic steps, from securing an ISBN to finding printers who would print and bind my book. This was the sign from above; I took the information and ran with it.
Utilizing my limited knowledge of all things digital, I produced my first book. I did everything from designing my cover, formatting the interior text layout, purchasing my ISBN, and developing a website. Once all that was done, I was blessed to find a book manufacturer a mere 45 minutes away from my job. The final printed and bound books were in my hands on July 18, 2008.
There’s nothing like doing something yourself to teach you just how much you don’t know about that something. On top of writing, editing, formatting, and publishing, I did all the marketing myself as well. I volunteered to do book readings wherever and whenever. In just a few short months, I had sold all fifty copies of my book. And that’s when I finally calmed down enough to read the proof the printer had given me way back in June 2008. All the excitement I felt at being a “published” author died dead just a few pages in. The grammatical errors alone were enough to send me into hiding. I was so embarrassed.
Rather than ditching the dream of a writing career altogether, I admitted that I obviously, needed to educate myself on the art, the process of writing a good story as well as the business side; marketing in particular. It only takes doing a live reading of your book at a bachelor party, in your underwear, to open your eyes to the fact that you might not know how best to market your book. It’s also one thing to bang away at a keyboard all day, churning out sentences I think come together as a story, only to realize upon re-reading that I didn't know nearly as much as I thought about the ART of writing a good story.
There are plenty of folks who in the middle of their 40’s decide to head back to school for an advanced degree. Especially when the economy dips; folks head back to school for those additional letters (MBA, CPA, PE, Ph.Ed, etc.) that will mean job security and career longevity, if they’re lucky. I, on the other hand, went back not so I could stick it out for another twenty years, in the corporate rat race. Nope, I was going back for my master’s degree in writing. I still didn’t want to teach, or secure a job in marketing nor did I want to be a technical writer. I didn’t even want to write freelance articles for magazines and journals. No, my friends, at 40-plus years young, I decided to start down the road to becoming a published, paid, novelist.
What brought me to such a state of affairs? At a time when jobs were disappearing left and right; homeowners were being forced to give up the American Dream and move to less opulent, rented digs. The last thing you’d expect anyone would do would be to set themselves up to be self-employed as a writer. But then again, I'd never done anything the way I was supposed to. So it was no big deal to me when I began my graduate studies in the Master of Arts for Professional Writing (MAPW) program at Kennesaw State University.
...Next Up, Finding My Niche (in an unexpected place)
If you missed it, part one of this month's blog series is HERE. See you next Wednesday as the journey continues.