Here I present the obligatory reflection post, as we near the end of the year.
(I’m taking next week off blogging, so this is my adieu to 2016. And I’ll get this out of the way up front: I’m not going to talk about politics or you-know-who. At all. You’re welcome.)
A year ago, I had a secret. It was something I was simultaneously very proud of, and very self-conscious about. A strange, contrary combination of feelings. I was embarrassed to put myself out there in case I failed, ashamed of becoming a cliché, nervous to go public and break out of my tiny bubble of introversion.
I started slow. I told my family, my friends. I tried it out on my hair stylist, and said the words through a tangle of dental instruments when the hygienist asked me what I’d been up to since she saw me last. It got easier each time, and the responses were encouraging. No one laughed at me, or rolled their eyes. With each repetition it became more real, and my self-consciousness faded.
Eventually I could say the words with pride: I wrote a book.
Or, sometimes, even: I wrote a book!
So many more things followed over the course of the year—I obsessively read every internet article I could find about agenting and publishing, I started writing query letters to selected agents, I got some good feedback and a huge heaping pile of form rejection letters, and finally I received and accepted an offer of representation from my now-agent—but none of it would have happened if I hadn’t been able to say those four little words.
I’ve tried to write books in the past, ever since college, actually. I'd get excited about an idea for a few weeks and then the doubts would set in and I would come to hate my idea and procrastination would take over and I before I knew it, my motivation had soured and I'd give up. But now that I’ve actually done the thing I’ve been longing to do for years—that is, written an entire 88,184-word novel--the ideas have come fast and furious. I have four new book ideas flying around in my brain, and none of them seem to be going away anytime soon. I’ve proved to myself that I can do it, and now I don’t think I can stop.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten, at least as relates to this subject, was from a podcast, of all places. I’m a loyal listener of The Nerdist Podcast with Chris Hardwick. His entire career is a testament to the idea that, if you don’t see the path you want to take in life, be the one who blazes that trail. Are you hearing “no” a lot? Make your own “yes.” Take that first step or leap. Are you nerdily passionate about something? Do that thing. Are you dying to create something? Then make that thing, dammit! Focus your nerdery into something productive.
Chris (yes, I call him by his first name because after hearing him talk into my ear and out of my TV for the last few years, we're buds) mentions this type of advice over and over on the podcast, while talking to all kinds of different, creative, interesting people. And one day it finally sunk in. I am passionate about books and writing. I am pretty good at it, too. That is my thing, and I need to do it! So I did. I zeroed in on an idea that contains all sorts of things that I love (adventure, science, kick-ass heroines, Disneyland, romance, pop culture) and wrote a book. And then I found my agent when she too appreciated that book.
Yesterday, I got an email from my agent saying that my book is now ready to take to publishers, which she will begin doing in the new year. Best. Christmas. Gift. Ever.
Who knows what 2017 will bring. I do know the sentence I’d like to be able to say this time next year. It has five words: “I am a published author.”