There are six hard truths about starting over (actually about life in general and any goal in particular):
- It’s HARD! (So be bloody prepared.)
- It takes work. And effort. (Anything worth having always does. Half-ass efforts get you half-ass results.)
- No matter how much you think you’ve got it figured out beforehand—i.e. the direction, the goal, the work or effort needed, the time it will take—it’s NOT going to go the way you expect. (FYI, this one I have beaucoup trouble with . . . it doubtlessly has to do with my control issues.)
- Failure WILL happen. (Yeah . . . beaucoup here, too. See above.)
- Perspective is everything. So is timing. (And hurt is just a part of life. So get the f**k over it and move on.)
- A dream, goal or desire deferred is NOT a dream, goal or desire denied. You may just have to take a deep breath and do like that old Frank Sinatra song says: pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.
And BTW, there is NO way to cheat the system! Just so you know.
So here’s my story . . . and an illustrative example of the hexad process above. Once upon another lifetime ago, I wrote historical romance novels. They won all kinds of industry awards and recognition and I was the “Up and Coming Author of 1991.” Blah, blah. I was told I was very good and had all the potential and talent needed “to make it.” The problem was success required prolificacy, and I had three boys who required their mom. I didn’t have the time to produce a book every 8-10 months which is what was required “to make it.” Nor did I have a supportive spouse. So I shelved writing. Someday, I thought, I’d go back to it.
Fast forward 20 years . . .
Boys are grown. Marriage is over. Ex is deceased. I’m starting over. Since I don’t necessarily want to live the rest of my life alone or celibate . . . ok, celibate is more a factor than “alone” . . . I’m looking. Within that “looking” process (remember, subject to the six steps above!) I tried online dating. I quickly learned the only way I could deal with the experience was to write about it. So I did. In fact, I wrote a book. Formatted as a weekly journal that chronicled my six months online, it’s a hybrid: One part self-help with practical “dos” and “do not dos” and “need to knows,” one part humor memoir and one part researched exposé on the online dating industry itself. I named it WINK: A Single at Sixty’s Odyssey Guide to Life, Love & Online Dating and let a few select people read it. Once again I was told I was very good. I had a flair for humor and WINK was funny and witty and sophisticated. It had the potential “to make it.” So I tried to find a publisher. But the publishing world I knew 20 years ago is long gone and the editors replaced with 30-something-year-olds. I was told authors today—especially in non-fiction—need “a social media presence.” So I started this blog.
Fast forward 3 months . . .
Singleat60sucks.com has over 2000 viewers, readers and followers in 55 countries around the world. It has been recognized with a “Top 100 Humor Blog” award. Once more I’m being told I am “an amazingly funny writer,” that what I write is “raw and down to earth” and that my readers “love” my posts. So surely now I have the gravitas (and social media presence) to find a publisher? Yeah . . . no . . . and hello, #4! Agents and editors alike now tell me what I am marketing has “no market” because “older women aren’t interesting, ie commercial.” No one would buy a book about a sixty-year-old online dating, say the 30-year-olds in charge of new acquisitions from an “emerging” author. (The older editors and agents all have established stables of authors.) Funny thing . . . I fly with lots of “older” women who tell me the exact opposite! As do all of my friends and family, many acquaintances and even several random strangers I somehow struck up a conversation with in the grocery store line. Moreover, when I talked about the book in a blog post, I had dozens of readers ask where they could buy it. I stubbornly decided to ignore #4 and look instead to #1, #2, and #3. I decided to self-publish WINK on Amazon as an ebook and as a paperback.
Fast forward a week . . .
Hello, #4, my old friend . . . to date I have sold 3 ebooks and zero paperbacks. It’s demoralizing and disheartening and embarrassing as hell to admit—much less write—here. But from day one when I started this blog I resolved to be honest and candid. Hell! I can write openly about my sex life and romantic breakups, and my issues with being 60 and single—it sucks, remember? Why not the other failures of my life? As much as it pains me to admit, I guess the 30-something-year-olds were right? Older women aren’t commercial or interesting. There is no market—despite my gut instinct telling me otherwise. (A pause now as my brain insists upon making a comment . . . “Ah . . . dumb ass! Would that be the same gut instinct that has served you so well? Ya know, the one that told you to sleep with a guy you are still trying to get over?” Response: “Yeah . . . well, on second thought, it probably wasn’t my gut that was the body part talking . . . )
As with all failures, I do have reasons and excuses. I’m currently in Arizona awaiting the birth of my 3rd grandson, so I’ve not had the time or opportunity to work on promotion and publicity. Too, after the fact, I found out Amazon Australia doesn’t support paperback distribution. (Really? I can sell the book in Germany, France, Spain and Japan where English isn’t the official language—but not Australia where I have 369 followers? Well, doesn’t that just figure!) On the bright side, I did just learn Kindle has an app for smart phones, iPads and tablets. Techno-idiot me thought you actually needed the Kindle device to read a Kindle book. Who knew?
So what now? Do I go back to #2? Do more work with promotion and exposure and publicity? Or do I look to #3? Or #5 and #6? Romance wasn’t destined to work. Maybe not non-fiction either? Maybe my writing niche is this blog? Or maybe it’s something else I can’t even fathom right now?
Ironically, as I was off and on writing this post (and struggling with my sense of failure), I came across a video clip on Facebook of a graduation speech given by a comic I’d never heard of, Tim Minchin. He spoke of chasing “big dreams,” and had a far different take on the subject. Advocating “passionate dedication to the pursuit of short term goals,” he warned his audience of new graduates to “just be aware that the next worthy pursuit will probably appear in your periphery.” He told them to be “micro ambitious” and that they didn’t have to have “a dream.” “You never know where you’ll end up,” he said, “which is why you should to be careful of long term dreams. If you focus too far in front of you on long term dreams, you won’t see the shiny thing out of the corner of your eye.”
NOTE: I have always been a believer in the Universe sending messages in times of need. So . . . was coming across that clip merely coincidence? Or a cosmic kick in the ass? What’s even more ironic is that the topic of my next post is indeed “a shiny thing.” Please watch for “Good Vibrations” next week . . .