I’ll admit there is little I remember about the conversation I had with Rachelle Gardner when she called to say I had been offered a publishing contract. Bliss mixed with shock and combined with a temporary but nasty case of the shakes can do that to a person. But I do remember her saying these words near the end:
“Your life is going to change now.”
I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but it sounded awfully nice. Not that my life was horrible at the time. It wasn’t. But to some extent that phone call divided my life into two distinct parts—the part that was before I was published, and the part afterwards.
I was ready to experience the part afterwards.
Ready to be a real writer and live a real writer’s life.
I didn’t know what that meant exactly either, but that too sounded awfully nice. I envisioned a flurry of emails and phone calls with editors and agents and publishers, interviews and mentions and furious planning.
To me being published was a sort of rebirth, a chance to lay aside the old me for a new and improved version. After years of trying and failing, I had found my holy grail. Those black clouds of fear and doubt were about to be replaced by blue skies and rainbows. My days, I decided, would now be meaningful.
For proof of whether that assertion has been proven true or not, here is a recollection of a twenty-four-hour span during this past week—one day in the life of a published author:
5:30 am – Alarm scares me awake. Cannot get out of bed. Throw the nearest object to silence the clock and miss, waking everyone in the house.
5:35 – Have a wonderful idea to include in my next book while in the shower.
5:37 – Forget the idea.
6:00 – Leave for work. With wind chill, the temperature is five below zero. Ponder the fact that real writers are likely still in bed.
7:00 – Begin sorting over two thousand pieces of mail. Wonder what in the world has happened to me.
8:30 – Break time. Thaw out extremities, then check email, Twitter, and blog comments. Really hoping people like my post. Also hoping everyone else’s numbers dipped a little over the holidays. Pessimistic voice inside my head mutters Yeah, right.
8:50 – Get an idea for a blog post during a conversation with a friend. This one I manage to write down in time. Still kicking myself for forgetting the one I had in the shower, though. Now convinced it could have been a bestseller.
9:00-11:59 – Thoughts of book tours and rampant adulation are replaced by the fact that I am scouring the campus looking for a box of grapes sent by a student’s mother.
12:00 pm – Lunch. Editing what I wrote from the previous night and looking over a few blogs. Decide that Jon Acuff’s book is going to be huge. Also decide that I’m not jealous because Jon’s a nice guy and he deserves it.
12:04 – Decide that even though Jon’s nice and he deserves it, I’m still jealous.
4:00 – Drive home. Have another good idea for the book. Pull over to write it down and am passed by someone who waves. Forget the idea. Curse my impending senility.
4:30 – Onslaught of kids/dinner/homework/exercise. Can’t write because of the commotion. Decide to reread Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. My enemy has a name, and its name is Resistance.
6:00 – catch up on emails. Nothing from publisher. They haven’t forgotten about me, right? Hush the pessimistic voice in my head before it answers.
9:30 – Family settled, I go upstairs to write.
1:15 am – 1,000 words for book number two, 720 for a blog post. Delirious from exhaustion.
1:30 – Bed.
Such has been my initiation into the world of publishing. Sounds glamorous, huh? Don’t get me wrong—I’m loving every second. This is, after all, my dream. But it’s not a blissful dream. Not a restful one. It’s work. Excruciating, tiresome, lonely work. Also the only work I’ve ever wanted to do.
Rachelle was right (Rachelle’s always right). My life has changed.
But I haven’t.
Getting published doesn’t remake you, it simply magnifies the person you’ve always been. I’m not as afraid or jealous or doubtful as I was before. It’s worse now. All those insecurities of being a writer are still there, and they still rage. The only difference is that while those emotions were once a distraction, now they’re a threat. Where once they tried to keep my dream from me, now they’re intent on taking it away.
There is no holy grail in writing. No point where you can relax and say you’ve made it. No place you can dream of getting to in order to make everything good.
Because no matter where you go in life, you take yourself with you.