Why I gave up on a lifelong dream

My dream of becoming an author started as far back as when I was a little girl. I never gave up on my dream, even when I pursued “more realistic” career goals. I wrote all through my teen and young adult years. But it wasn’t until my daughter was around two that I finished my first full-length novel. At the time I was running a daycare in my home, and I would fantasize about one day writing full time. I would picture myself lying on the couch in my jammies writing furiously on my laptop. Or sitting in a coffee shop, sipping a beverage while hunched over my computer.  It seemed like the most amazing life ever, and I was desperate to make it mine.

And I did.

A year after publishing my first book I quit my job to write full time. In a lot of ways my life was like my daydreams. I did lie on the couch in my jammies writing. And I did go to coffee shops and write while sipping coffee. In some ways it was so much better than what I imagined. But in other ways it was so much worse.

I love writing, so that part has always been fulfilling to me. There is nothing better than hitting that sweet spot in a novel where you write without even thinking. Where you lose yourself in your story and reality ceases to exist. That has only happened to me while writing full time. I think because it happens after several hours of writing when I really hit my stride. At least that’s how it is for me.

But if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve struggled a lot with anxiety and depression over the past five years. Most of that stemmed from some weird health stuff I’ve experienced.  However, I can’t help but think that being alone with my own thoughts has exacerbated these issues.

I’m a social person. I love being around other people. If you’re close to me, you know I love to talk. Probably too much. I feed off of the energy of other people.  Being alone all day long isn’t ideal for me. Not just because I get lonely, but also because it’s dangerous for someone like me. Someone who lives in their imagination. When my imagination runs with a story and my characters take over an amazing story is the result. But when my imagination runs wild with ideas about my health the result is a full-blown panic attack. I’m embarrassed to admit, that panic attacks have become a way of life for me in the past five years. Rarely a day goes by without one and sometimes I have multiple.

At the end of last year,  I made some healthy changes. I joined a crossfit class, and I started to leave the house more often to work. And for awhile this was enough. Crossfit was a game changer for me. Not only was the social aspect amazing for me, but the exercise and change in my body was incredible. But it was only a bandaid. I still had panic attacks, just not as often. And I still felt lonely.

crossfit

On top of this, my income has been really all over the place. I’ve blogged about this before and many other indie authors have weighed in on the changing market, so I won’t go into it. But my husband and I have had some hard talks about my career and what I need to do. I signed with an agent and publisher last year, so exciting things are in the works. But that didn’t fix everything immediately, and I’ve known for awhile that I need to get another job.

To be honest, the idea of going back to work felt a little like admitting defeat. Five years ago when I quit my job I never planned to go back to work outside of the home. I had finally realized my dream, and I assumed it was what I would do for the rest of my life. My pride made it difficult to apply for another job.

I thought it would make me look like a failure.

Like I couldn’t hack it as an author.

But then I started to imagine leaving the house everyday and going to a job. And some of that panic that always sits in my chest loosened. The idea of getting out, of meeting people, of making friends – it excited me. And I realized that it wasn’t admitting defeat. In fact, my dream of securing a traditionally published book deal was just realized.

entangled

I certainly haven’t been defeated. I’m not throwing in the towel. I’m in a great place in my writing career.

I’m just not in a great place mentally.

But I know I can be.

When I found out that my old job was hiring, I knew it was an answer to prayer. I loved my previous place of employment. And many of my friends still work there.

Two weeks ago I went back there. It’s been great! Mentally I’m in a much better place. Not one panic attack. 🙂 I’m struggling a bit with adjusting to my new work schedule. The hardest part is wearing real pants. lol! But I’ll get used to it.

And I’ll still be here slaving away over my computer. I’ll still be creating worlds and characters. I’ll just be a little healthier, happier, and not so lonely.

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I Quit: Giving up on the Self-Publishing Dream

When I wrote my first book in 2007, I had no idea what I would do with it. Mostly I just wanted to see if I could complete a novel. Once it was finished I allowed friends and family to read it and the consensus was the same – I should get it published. So I picked up a copy of the latest Writer’s Market book and started the arduous task of querying agents and publishers. I foolishly believed that they would love my manuscript as much as my friends and family did. I thought it was only a matter of time before my book was published. But after getting the first dozen or so rejection letters, my dream began to dwindle.

Fast forward 5 years and numerous manuscripts later and I had abandoned my dream of being traditionally published. I couldn’t handle the rejections anymore. Also, I had started to hear of authors like Amanda Hocking who had self-published and done well with it.  So I started to research self-publishing. And the more I learned, the more I started to see this as a viable option. I was ready to start my career, and I didn’t want to keep waiting around for publishers and agents to finally tell me I was good enough. I believed I was good enough. I believed that if readers could get a hold of my books that they would do well.

So on January 20, 2012, I published my first book PROWL (PROWL TRILOGY #1).

Prowld

The book didn’t make any lists and it didn’t make me a millionaire, but it sold. People were reading it and reviewing it, and it felt amazing. So I published the next two books in the series in quick succession.

Prowle

ProwlfAnd sales started to gradually pick up. Nothing earth shattering, but enough to keep me going. So I continued writing. I released an adult suspense novel and then published a young adult paranormal series. At that point I was making enough money that I was able to quit my day job to write full-time. Around that time, the NA genre was picking up so I decided to try my hand at a contemporary romance. Once I started writing contemporary romance I felt that I had found my niche. Not only did my sales sky rocket to places I had only dreamed of, but I enjoyed writing them. My sales continued to grow steadily and honestly it surprised the hell out of me. I was making more money than I ever had before.

But then about a year ago something odd happened. Sales just sort of stagnated. Then they started declining. And the decline wasn’t gradual. It was instant and it was significant.

It seemed weird that my sales would tank since I had more books out, and my fan base had grown. And I couldn’t find an obvious reason. I was still receiving great reviews, so I didn’t think it was a reflection of my work. It was baffling, and frankly kind of scary. Then I started hearing from other indies and they were in the same boat as me. It seemed we were all suffering.

Lately I’ve been hearing about indies who are suffering to the point where they have to go back to work and some are even considering quitting. And it makes me sad. I’ve read a lot of articles where experts in the business predict why this is happening, and some of them make sense. I do think that with all the indie books priced at $0.99, readers are starting to expect that. And so when I release my book at $3.99, most readers don’t want to pay that. The problem is that I can’t afford to pay my bills if my books are all priced at $0.99. And honestly, I don’t feel like $3.99 is very much for a book that I spend months creating, writing and editing. I pay that much for a peppermint mocha that takes 2 minutes to make, and less than an hour to drink. And I don’t feel like it’s a waste of money. I thoroughly enjoy every minute of my mocha.

The point is that there are a lot of reasons why this is happening, and I could sit around and think about all these reasons and let it get me down. Sometimes I do. But the truth is that writing is in my blood. I can’t stop even if I wanted to. The millions of rejection letters didn’t stop me, and declining sales won’t stop me either. Actually, these things tend to spark my competitive side and make me work that much harder.

I wanted to write this blog in honor of all the fabulous indie authors I’ve met in this crazy business. I want you to know that I love you, that I respect you, that I know how hard you work and how difficult this business can be. And I want you to know that I am here to support you. One of my favorite things about this business is you – my fellow indies. It’s such an amazing, supportive, encouraging community.

And I want to thank my die-hard readers. Even in the darkest times you’ve kept me going, and I can’t thank you enough. I know things will pick up, and they may even decline again. But know this – I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be right here on my computer plugging along. I’ll write as long as the voices in my head keep talking and as long as the readers keep reading.