I finished college late, got married late, and had kids late; later than all of my then friends. Maybe late isn’t the right word. I guess Older is more appropriate. I was older when I accomplished all of the aforementioned. When I was single, all of my girlfriends were married and starting families. When I finally got married, these girlfriends were no longer my friends and all of them were single mothers.
I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was eight years old. I didn’t know at eighteen, entering college. At twenty-eight it struck me I knew what I wanted to be but I was already grown up. I wanted to be a writer yet I did nothing about it. I wanted to write a book, but suppressed the desire. I went on about my life as a still-single, mortgage-paying, working-girl looking for the perfect job and perfect man. These don’t exist by the way. I found something close but close, as they say, only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
The job was with a small company. Seven employees total, including me. I worked that job for six years, the longest I had ever been with a company. I was able to move up and grow within the organization. During this time, I gained a confidence I never knew I had. I finally found a job where I could flourish and thrive. It was at this job the book idea began growing again and where I started writing it. I found I could suppress it no longer and when a thought struck me or an idea came to mind, I pulled out my flash drive, plugged it into my computer and started typing. In no time I had two chapters.
The man came along too and we eventually married. Looking back, I’m grateful for those single years and I wouldn’t change a thing. That time helped shape and define who I am today: strong-minded, independent, capable, and able to care for myself without the help of a man. My husband and I found each other when we were supposed to. Our first daughter was born two years after we wed. Almost two years after that our second daughter came along.
I went back to my job after the birth of my second child, knowing I’d be leaving my position. The company I once loved was changing; a merger occurred and management went through an overhaul. People were put into leadership positions without knowledge of company practices or policy. Respected board members resigned along with several of the original staff, as did I.
I became a stay-at-home mom. I took care of my two-year old and four month old daughters. The first eighteen months were welcoming and restful, as crazy as it sounds. I didn’t have to wake up to an alarm blaring in my ear or put up with silly office shenanigans, which weren’t much fun given the change in hierarchy. Gone were the days of defending my work and jockeying for certain positions, proving myself. Rather, I took naps with the kids and cooked meals I saw on the cooking channel. All the while this book I had started clawed and scratched its way to the surface.
On a cold January morning, I got up before the sun and the kids to get the words down, without the help of that annoying alarm clock, amazing. Soon I had four chapters. Scrapped it and four new chapters flowed from my finger tips. It took twenty-one months then bam, I finished. Then the edits started and seemed to be unending.
I bought books on query letters, publishers and agents. I subscribed to blogs
about the industry, feverishly read emails from editors and learned about platforms. I created a publishing resource guide, devouring all the information I could find. I met with others who have been successful in the business desperate to learn what they already knew.
One thing I learned is publishing is ridiculously hard, opinions on the subject are across the board, it is elusive and ever changing sort of like trying to find that man or job, except it’s possible. It exists. Even though rejection is rampant, it’s out there.
In this digital day and age, some say the book is dead. It’s all about e-books and electronic media. All say you must have thousands of followers on social media. Social media is obscure and overrated. I don’t like it and I don’t use it. It is a deep well of mindless chatter, thoughts, and opinions. Facebook is a digital ticker tape of bitching, bragging, bullying and the occasional bible verse. It breeds some of the seven deadly’s. Envy, lust and pride are the first to come to mind. When I say mindless chatter, I mean this: Do I really care why you are in the OBGYN office again? That you were stopped by every red light on your way home from work? What you’re having for dinner? That, that pesky rash is back? Or that you are once again contemplating a divorce but you don’t have the guts to go through with it? No, not really. I knew a girl who left a ten year marriage and two young children to be with a former lover she looked up on Facebook. It’s the devil.
I learned the other day that publishers are looking for saleable books, not good books. This means if you have thousands of followers on social media you will have a better chance at a publishing deal, you have what they call cred. Well, just because you have six thousand friends on social media doesn’t mean you’ll sell six thousand books.
I have a fan base; a list of hundreds of actual people that I actually know personally by building and sustaining real friendships. These people are not an acquaintance that sent me a friend request because we have some person in common on social media. They aren’t people I haven’t seen in twenty years and stupidly call them friends. I’m talking about real, true people that I am blessed to call real true friends. That should mean something. People that would buy my book simply because I wrote it and they want to support me.
Once again I feel like I’ve started and finished something too late. Instead of writing my book at twenty-eight, when I first felt the gnawing, I wrote it twelve years later when all that matters is how many social media followers I don’t have. I sometimes wonder if I have composed a saleable book and a good book. Deep down I believe I have.
Had I started this journey at twenty-eight, I wouldn’t have had to worry about social media and e-books and friends that aren’t really friends leaving meaningless posts on my wall.
So that brings us back to the sixty-four million dollar question: What happens when you get a late start? Scrap it all or trudge forward trying to find a place?
I don’t consider myself a quitter; my parents didn’t raise me that way. I was taught to see things through, to finish. That said; I know I’m only half finished with this project. Some days I feel like quitting and giving up and walking away from it all; deleting all the chapters and all the edits, trashing all the books on the subject. For me, the easy part was to write the novel. The hard part towers before me, the mammoth monster known as publishing. It is Goliath and I am David. It is big and terrifying while I am small and meek.
But today I have a renewed perspective. I’ve decided to prepare my mind and my sling shot. I will finalize what needs to be finalized and hurl my book into the monster’s hands and wait; again and again and again. I have to or I’ll never know. If I don’t I’ll always be sorry for not continuing to try; I’ll always wonder what if.
I came across this quote the other day: “Life is a choice. Are you going to surf the wave or let it knock you down all day?” For me publishing is that wave, pummeling me into the sand battering and beating me against the shore. Yes, I’ve started everything in my life late, but at least I started. Now I’m ready to finish. I’ve got my board. Surf’s up.