This post is my attempt to put into words what I’ve been feeling about my life and career if for no other reason than to make sense of it for myself. Perhaps this is something I shouldn’t admit publicly, but the best word that comes to mind is desperate. I feel like my window is closing. That may just be a product of turning 40, but I truly feel like my chances of having a breakthrough during my lifetime are growing slimmer by the day. I still believe in the quality of my work and still maintain that I’ve grown and improved with each book, but what I’ve never had is that one big moment, that tipping point when word of mouth and momentum become self-sustaining. I used to tell myself it was just a matter of time, but now, I’m not so sure.
I don’t want fame or wealth, either. I don’t need to sell millions of books to validate myself. What I do need is to earn a living as a writer, but it seems like there is very little middle ground today. You either have a runaway bestseller or are mired in obscurity. At least that’s my perception. The bestsellers today are rarely the best books, either. Sorry Twilight fans, but those books always have been and always will be vapid piles of poorly written, steaming horseshit. The fact that Stephanie Meyer never has to work another day makes it hard not to be bitter. But I digress.
I feel trapped in education. Trapped. A suffocating kind of trapped. A long, slow soul crushing kind of trapped. Every single time I have to drive to and walk inside the high school, a little piece of me dies. I’m not a high school teacher in any way, shape, or form, and I can’t begin to explain how depressing the environment is. Every time I grade semi-literate, poorly organized, poorly formatted essays from supposed college students, I feel myself getting dumber. I feel my own writing skills eroding from the overexposure to inane shit. Every time I have to re-explain basic instructions to supposed college students, only to have half of them completely ignore me for whatever reason, I feel like screaming. I want out so desperately I can’t stand myself, but finding a new career is easier said than done in this economy. I’m also afraid that a career change now will mean the end of my writing career, as well.
I never expected a writer’s life to be easy, but I didn’t expect it to be this hard, either. The rules have changed at least three times already in my 20+ years in this business. What was once gospel is now obsolete, and no one I’ve met actually knows what the landscape will be tomorrow. It’s maddening to navigate uncharted territory with little more than a flashlight. Then, of course, as if things weren’t difficult enough already, Facebook decided to pull a bait and switch and betray those of us who had spent years building up our fan base on their platform. Now, I’m scrambling to learn the foreign language known as Twitter.
I’m trying to channel my feelings of desperation into a sense of urgency. Those who’ve worked in sales know what I mean. Urgency breeds excitement, and excitement is contagious. For the next few months, I plan to make a big push and use every sales, marketing, promotional technique I know. I’ll try to hit a few shows, pursue as many avenues as I can, and make my best possible effort to make this happen. One way or the other, I will not walk through the doors of that high school next fall. One way or the other, at least that part of my career will change.