Today is my anniversary. It is my anniversary of jumping off the cliff and building my wings on the way down (thank you, Mr. Bradbury). One year ago today was the first day that I lived life as writing-centric.
Within the first few months I had a couple of regular freelance clients and was paid for a submitted short story. Things seemed like they were going to just go gang-busters and there would be no looking back.
Scraping by and using some community resources, I kept my children fed. Despite the difficulties, my spouse stood by me and served as lead cheerleader. His support has been critical and necessary to keep me going in those moments the rejection letters and emails came. Claims of adoration from fellow writers for my seeming stupidity disguised as bravery also buoyed me in the rough-writing seas. Rejections that said, “It was hard to say no to your (submission/application), please (reapply/resubmit),” kept me pumped to soldier on.
Right as the holidays descended on us all the freelance work dried up and I took a bit of vacation from creating anything new as far as stories went. I concentrated my creative energy on creating other art projects and opened my little Thrasher Studios Etsy shop.
At the dawn of 2012, I vowed to send one thing out every week.
In February I had my first public reading at the University Bookstore in Seattle. It felt so surreal. Could I actually be doing this? I was doing it. But still my insurance, my phone, my lights every month were at risk of being shut off. Yet, I persevered.
I continued through April 5th submitting something each week – a short story or a grant application. Peppered through these weekly “messages in a bottle” I sent inquiries to agents for my novels.
By the end of May all of my submissions and applications had been rejected. Ouch. However, some included those kind notes I mentioned above which testified that I chipped through – cracked a smile even – the Crown Jewels Guard Regiment blocking my path to the publishing tower.
I’m a week away from completing the edits and revision on a novel I wrote in 2009 (SECOND THOUGHT) and had shelved and now feel I’d be proud for this to be my debut work. Getting this work in front of agents will be my focus for the beginning of summer.
I’ve missed two deadlines for short-story submissions this month, caught up in familial obligations* as I have been. But freelance work has been absent for more than six weeks. I have some eggs in a basket here and there, but I don’t expect anything to hatch there until the Fall. Meanwhile, I have three children home all summer looking to me for movie and ice cream money, and never ending pursuit of shoes that fit last month, but don’t today. Salaries in the tech industry, where my spouse works, have tightened down and there’s just not the kind of paycheck to support the entire household as there may have been in the past. So, some things have to change. It’s hard to create when you’re rolling pennies to purchase toilet paper.
Today I applied for a service industry part-time job. No telling if I’ll get it. But, I figure I can get back out into the world beyond the cave of my writing studio and maybe, just maybe, my wings will be complete soon and I’ll be soaring through publishing success.
I’m not giving up. We all know that success is not an upward straight arrow. It squiggles up and down and all around. Regardless I’m continuing with the attitude that I expect good things to happen.
But the universe is requiring that I not throw all my energies at everything. I’m going to focus on a few things and shelve everything else – at least temporarily.
I knew going into it that this starving artist life was going to be tough and austere. I’m fortunate enough to have a supportive partner, and this little set back is not going to define me, it’s not going to alter my goals or my spirit or the elements of my writing life. It’s just going to look different than what I first envisioned it.
The fall off that cliff of security to the sea of my dreams is a long journey – heck the journey just to get to the cliff was a long one, too. I’m okay with that. Regardless, I’m still finding my wings. It’s like this song/video here, Sigur Ros’ Glósóli. If you’ve jumped off that cliff and are building your wings, comment below and tell me about your journey. If you’re just thinking about it – put on your red bandana, march to a different drummer, and come join us.
Meanwhile, there’s a manuscript staring at me awaiting my attention.
*In the spirit of full disclosure, part of my leaving a full-time stable job was to also be able to be home for my children more – especially my special-needs child.