On March 15, I will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of my first book, A Symphony of Cicadas, which is also my 10-year anniversary of becoming a published author. This was a lifelong dream I’d had, and the fact that I was able to make it happen, was so huge.
Fun fact, I have FOUR books that have March 15 as a book birth date: A Symphony of Cicadas (10 years), Forever Thirteen (9 years), Reclaim Your Creative Soul (7 years), and For the Birds (1 year).
The other day, I shared 25 things about me as an author. If you haven’t read it yet, you can read it here.
Today, I want to share about who I was as a writer 10 years ago, inspired by a post by Writing and Wellness.
Let’s take a journey to the past.
Note: The cover to A Symphony of Cicadas looks a lot different than it did 10 years ago! Check out the new 10-year anniversary cover!
1. 10 years ago, what was your biggest writing goal?
To publish my first book! But my goal of publishing a book was so much bigger than putting it on Amazon and pressing the publish button. I wanted it to help me quit my job. So really, that was my REAL goal—to become so successful, I could leave my job and write full time. I mean, I was sure everyone wanted to read this book. I was ready to inspire people with an incredible story. I was thinking of ways I could still live incognito in a world that could not get enough Crissi Langwell books. A beach house would be nice, maybe on a private beach with a chef’s kitchen, a writing desk that overlooked the ocean, and enough rooms to host all my closest friends and family. Nothing too extravagant. I figured that my first book probably wouldn’t be the ground breaker, but it would pave the way for the book that would put my name on the map and make me an instant success. I figured it would probably take 3 books to reach that level of success, so I made sure to write fast after that first book was published to get to that 3rd book.
I am now getting ready to publish my 13th novel. I still work full time in an office, though I love my job and don’t want to quit. I only make good money on my books when I dedicate myself to marketing. Right now, I’m not. Last month I made $17 on my books. My latest book made me a thousandaire, which I’m happy with, but it’s not a beach house salary.
My current goal, besides getting out the next books, is to keep perspective on why I do this. It’s not to become rich and famous. It’s to feed my creative outlet and share my stories with people who want to read them.
2. What was your biggest fear 10 years ago?
“What if it sucks.” I wrote a whole blog post on this, and in it, I was trying to be all light about this fear because I didn’t want people to think it sucks. But truthfully, I was petrified. I had held on to this dream of publishing a book for so long, I’d die if I failed. I mean, who was I if I wasn’t a writer? I imagined all sorts of worst-case scenarios, like people going gangbusters on their hate for my books, posting all sorts of slanderous things about me on the internet, and word getting to Oprah on how awful my book was so that she’d never have me on her show. I worried that readers would find all the mistakes I’d made and then post review after review on my books so that no one would want to read them. Worst of all, I worried they’d prove my biggest fear to me—that I could not write, and was wasting my time even thinking so.
10 years later, none of these things have happened. Yes, I’ve received a bad review or two. Sure, there are some people who did not connect with my books. But even more were people who LOVED what I wrote and have shared my books with others. Just recently, a reader left a review that she was re-reading one of my books and loved it just as much the second time. How cool is that?
Of course, that fear of “What if it sucks” never goes away. I have this little panic routine with every book I write, including the current one. When that voice gets too loud, I have a hard time getting back to the story. But the only way to conquer that fear is to keep writing and keep pushing ahead.
Because even if it sucks, it won’t kill me. And I can still write, regardless.
P.S. At a friend’s suggestion, I am now reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and it starts out addressing this fear, and it’s so effing relatable, I can’t believe it. Apparently most writers go through this. Who knew?
3. Who was your favorite author 10 years ago?
There were three books that were my absolute favorites around this time, making their authors my favorite authors. One was Eat. Pray. Love., by Elizabeth Gilbert, which made me want to eat my way through Italy, lose the weight and find God in India, then travel to Bali to live in an open air cottage in the jungle and ride my bike everywhere. Then there was Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, which made me want to figure out my life while traveling the PCT, nevermind that I don’t actually like hiking even though it’s a popular thing to like. And then there was Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott, who was my true favorite of all three for her blatant truth telling, speaking her mind even though it didn’t make her look pretty or nice or pleasant. I wanted to be honest, too, and say all the things on my mind without putting filters on it as I worried how people would take it.
The similarities of these three amazing women were that they wrote memoirs from a very impactful time of their life that inspired me. But even more, they were so raw and honest in the way they told it that it did NOT repel readers, but actually drew them in as readers nod with relief and say, “Me too!”
And that’s the kind of writer I still hope to be one day.
P.S. The year I published A Symphony of Cicadas, I got to see Cheryl Strayed for a writing workshop. I brought her book so she could sign it, my book so I could give it to her, and a Snapple because I knew she loved it. I chickened out and never even approached her, but the picture above is proof that my intentions were there.
4. What did you spend most of your writing time doing 10 years ago?
I was so disciplined 10 years ago! I woke up every morning at 5 a.m. and wrote for 2 hours. On my lunch break, which was only 30 minutes, I’d write some more. Then at night, I’d write for another hour or two. On the weekends, I’d head to a coffee shop and hold that table hostage for hours while I wrote. I lived and breathed writing, and when I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about writing.
Now? Some weeks I don’t write, though I’m working to change that. I still wake up early, but not to write. I use my morning time to wake up with coffee before a short yoga routine, then get ready for work. My writing time during the week, when I do write, is in the evenings, usually between 8-9 p.m. I save my longer sessions for the weekends, but I am now involved in so many things, those long writing sessions are rare. That said, there is always time for writing, and I know that it’s fear, not responsibilities, that keep me from writing. You have to schedule in your writing time to make it happen (I actually wrote about this in Creative Soul, and I still stand by it. I just haven’t been practicing it).
5. Who were you as a writer 10 years ago?
A lot more hopeful. A lot less jaded. A lot less realistic. I think I’m coming around to being less jaded about writing, but from about 2017 and on, I have really, truly struggled as a writer. I have threatened to give up so many times. In many ways, I miss the writer I was 10 years ago who had so many hopeful expectations for my writing career. But I also wish I’d been a little more aware of the realities of being an author, because then I wouldn’t have been so sidelined. That said, I love how much I’ve grown as a writer in the past 10 years, all I’ve learned about publishing and marketing, and I still hold a lot of hope for my writing career in the years to come. I just no longer bank on my writing career to save me. Instead, I feel grateful I get to write, and even more grateful that people read my books.
I don’t just write rambling blog posts, I also write novels. Find them all here.
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2 thoughts on “Where I Was 10 Years Ago as a Writer”
Having read all of your books and award winning short stories I can see and feel how much more polished your voice is regardless of what you write.
You’re just getting started – and, I believe as I’ve said for years, the best is yet to come, as long as you never give up on you.
I know I never will!
Thank you for sharing your writing journey. It’s quite the wild ride, huh? Since publishing my first book 8 years ago I have learned a lot of hard truths about this craft. Succeeding (financially, anyway) is a lot tougher than it seems. Selling books requires so much promotion, just for the books to get known. Often the personality type for someone who is good at being in the public eye is very different from the personality type of many writers who are happiest off in seclusion, quietly writing, immersed in their ideas and imagination, so that’s why many fabulous writers don’t get well known. I have been writing stories and book excerpts forever. I recently came across a 30 page short story I wrote 35 years ago! I continue to write because I love to do it and I publish for the few people who may want to read and just to make the work available. It’s important for us writers to support each other!