Truth telling: Fear of success as an author

Last week at work, I was yelled at by a business I’d included in a newspaper article assignment. The woman on the other line called me out for not contacting them for proper information, which was true. Her voice continued to raise as she pointed her finger at everything I did wrong, and I didn’t fight her because everything she said was true. I’d written an entertaining article that ended up going gangbusters, much to my surprise, and this business was left to clean up the PR nightmare I’d unintentionally created for them by not verifying information. I felt genuinely bad, and I tried to apologize, promising a retraction. But then she hit me where it hurt.

“I see you’re a writer,” she told me. “I see you write things about how to be a writer. It would take nothing to put your name out there as someone who spreads bad information.” She let me know that if their company suffered from this article in any way, I was going down with them.

I was officially triggered. Every single fear I’ve ever had came crashing down on me, things I’ve felt all along, but now were staring me in the face. I’m not good enough. I don’t know what I’m doing. Who do I think I am? How dare I even believe I can keep playing this make-believe game of being a writer, both at work and in my personal life? I’m not educated enough. I’m not talented enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m a total and complete hack.

This triggered barrage of fears at work has seeped into my work as an author. I’m not supposed to talk about this. Who says? I don’t know. I just know that most authors keep things light and friendly, presenting their books in these neat little packages as if they didn’t spend months or years before that bleeding at their keyboard and contemplating ending it all out of self-doubt. My favorite indie authors who are making a killing at this game are funny, personable, and confident. Not me, though. I’m a complete disaster. I’m a mess. I doubt myself constantly. The worst time of my life is always book launch time, because I’ve already predicted its failure before the book is even released.

But truthfully, it’s also a relief when the book doesn’t sell. It means there’s less of a chance for someone to discover the flaws I’ve included between the pages. I’m afraid any research I’ve done hasn’t been enough. Readers will discover I don’t know how to sail a boat, grow a garden, live on a pot farm, or watch a good friend die. I’ll get something wrong, and a reader will call me on it, and the book will be destroyed.

Making it in this writing game is all I want, and it scares me the most. It would be amazing to reach the point where I can live off the proceeds from my books. But what happens if someone smears my name, either by something I’ve done, or something I haven’t done? You’ve all seen the internet mobs that come flying with their pitchforks over someone who’s done something terrible. It would take nothing for a false rumor to be spread that way and ruin someone’s life. If I had a platform, it would be too easy for someone I’d rubbed raw to smear my name and ruin my career. This woman that called me on the article could potentially ruin me by letting everyone know that I have no idea what I’m talking about, that I love to spread fake news.

This woman isn’t even my biggest fear. It’s the readers. When I’m writing a book, I am free, for the most part, of any doubts I have. It’s just me and the characters, and we’re having a great time during the weeks I write their story. But as soon as the book is ready to publish, all my fears take over. The door opens, and I invite people in to read all the things that have been private for months. I’m left vulnerable as people I don’t know pick up my story and witness what I’ve created. Worse, people I know pick up the story. I feel judged, exposed, emotional, afraid. The days after a book release, I usually hide, unable to muster a social media post or say anything about the book because I’m so spent and nursing a nasty book launch hangover.

Then there’s the marketing part. I tell people I know how to write, but I don’t know how to market. That’s a partial lie. I know things I can do that will help drum up interest, but I don’t do them because of my fear of rejection. If I tell people about the book, they will ask what it’s about, and as I tell them, I can hear a little voice telling me they’re not interested, they’re just being polite, no one reads anymore, and so on. I worry more that I will gather their interest, and then, once they read the book, they’ll be left disappointed because I failed to live up to my hype.

And, of course, there’s that one fear I spoke of a few paragraphs ago—if I gather a lot of interest, there’s more potential for someone to realize I’m a hack. I’ve published 9 books so far. I should be so much better at this game. Instead, I’m worse—and my self-doubt is my biggest reason why.

I was listening to Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday podcast with India.Arie, who spoke about leaving the music industry for a time because she felt like she was losing herself to the commercial side and not keeping true to her own beliefs. Her obstacle was her feeling of inadequacy. When she was nominated for 7 Grammys, she was so overwhelmed she couldn’t handle it. When she didn’t win a single one, she was caught somewhere between feelings of failure and a sense of relief. I totally get her on this one. Then she told Oprah a realization she’d had just a few weeks earlier in a moment of self-doubt.

“What if Oprah decided she was too fat for TV?”

Whoa. Let’s chew on that for a second. Oprah wasn’t always OPRAH. She was once a radio station newscaster who found her calling in the talk show arena because she knew how to tell a story. But what if she had decided she couldn’t be seen in the public eye because she wasn’t thin enough, smart enough, or likable enough?

What if Steph Curry decided he wasn’t good enough at basketball?

What if Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (my obsession) felt like his life was too messy to create music?

What if Stephen King had successfully thrown away his manuscript for Carrie?

What if Jesus, Gandhi, Muhammad, Confucius, Buddha, or the Dalai Lama decided they didn’t know what they were talking about, and kept quiet because they were afraid someone would strongly disagree with them?

Earlier this year, I tattooed my favorite Bible verse on my arm: Be not afraid or discouraged. The Lord your God is with you. Joshua 1:9. Fear has been my driving force for so many years. It’s been my God. My focus this year has been on faith, and part of that journey is to let go of fear. Here we are in November, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. In many ways, I feel more afraid than ever. I wish for thick skin, and it’s ridiculously thin. I pretend I have callouses because I work at a newspaper and deal with ridicule on a daily basis. But I don’t have callouses, I have scars that keep reopening.

Not one person in this world is flawless. I’m just me, trying to figure out the world and where I fit in the story. I don’t have all the answers; I can’t even pretend that I do. But I do know that I can only own the things I can control. I can’t control how many people read my book, though I can do things to push it in their direction. I can’t control what people think about my book. But I can control what I write, and stay true to my beliefs as I write it. For that, I need to be clear on those beliefs. What’s my ultimate message? Each story incorporates something I’m grappling with in the time that I’m writing it. What have I learned from the story? What do I hope the reader will learn?

Finally, what’s my definition of success? I thought success was selling enough books so that I can be a full-time writer. However, this definition doesn’t make me happy. It feels shallow, and its broad definition makes the goal out of reach. But you know what makes me feel like I’ve fulfilled my purpose? When someone reaches out to me to say they found themselves in my story, that they felt less alone when they read it, that it reached a deep emotion inside they hadn’t even known was there. My definition of success is when a reader connects with the story I’ve told them, and I’ve changed them because of it.

That’s a definition I can live for.

There will always be critics in this world. I’m not done fearing them, but I’m trying to move away from that. The best I can do, the best any of us can do, is to remember we are all souls having a human experience. We are all connected in one way or another, even with our worst critics. What can we take from each experience? What should we leave behind. Most important, which voices in this world build us up and encourage us to be the best we can be? Those are the voices to focus on.

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The one where I reveal too much about my failure as an author

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I started writing the 3rd novel in my Hope series (still haven’t decided on a name, so this is what I’m going to call it for now) on Dec. 1. I came into the month with a clear idea on what I wanted to happen to Maddie, and what I wanted wrapped up by the time I reached the conclusion. But all the in between stuff, like the layout of each chapter and the steps it would take to get from the beginning to end, I left that to figure out later. I was just too eager to get started on writing, and I didn’t want to lose my train of thought to create the beginning.

And so I started writing. I created my epic beginning, and it was everything I envisioned it would be. Then I came to the next chapter, and I wrote the rest of what I knew about the setup of this novel. Now I’m on Day 3 of writing, and I’ve managed to do anything but write. I’m easily distracted, and I’ve found so many things to do during this writing time, the only time I have today to work on my novel.

The reason I can’t write is because I don’t have a plan. I know where I am, and I know where I’m going. But I don’t know the in-between parts on how I want to get there.

It occurred to me today that this is exactly what’s going on with my author business. This can’t be the first time I’ve realized this, can it? I’m sure I’ve realized this before. However, this epiphany struck me today, and I suddenly feel stupid.

I’m about to be more honest than I should be in this blog, so bear with me.

Four years ago, I was polishing the manuscript that would become my very first published novel. I had this huge vision for the future, my success as an author at the very core. I was smart enough to know that my first novel wouldn’t make me millions. I’d probably only sell a few hundred copies or so. I’d heard that the third novel was the magic number, and I was banking on that one getting me out of my full-time job and onto a glittery path of being a literary celebrity. I was humble in this dream. I wouldn’t quite be J.K. Rowling. But maybe I could be as big as Liz Gilbert or Anne Lamott, or in the biggest of hopes, the next Ernest Hemingway.

That first book sold well in the first month. Of course, I had to lower my standards to see that it sold well. Amazed by my achievement of writing a book, many of my friends bought and read this novel. A portion of these friends even left reviews, prompted by my regular requests to help populate the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Over the next few months, I gave copies away and gained a few more reviews. To help speed along my plan toward success, I published two other books from writing I’d done over the years. The first was a memoir of essays on single parenting, and the second was a book on poetry.

Now I had three books! I waited for the money to start rolling in.

As you probably have guessed, my book #3 was not the magic number. I failed to recognize that you need three books to draw in the same group of people who were attracted to the first book. By publishing a fiction book, and then a parenting memoir, and finally a poetry book, I was speaking to three different crowds. I was all over the map.

And so I wrote the sequel to my first book. The first one, A Symphony of Cicadas, told of a mother who died, and her journey through the afterlife. The second book, Forever Thirteen, told about her son, a 13-year-old boy who died in the same accident. I love both of these stories. However, they should never have been written together.

Here’s why.

The first book was full of swear words and a few sex scenes. It was appropriate for the story, and I feel that stripping those parts out would take away from the story. However, the second book was written about a 13-year-old protagonist, and was definitely geared toward young adult. So, I have one book that is aimed at adults, and its companion book aimed at young teens. If these young teens want to learn about the other half of the story, they must read through a bunch of swear words and sex scenes, and grown-up situations that probably won’t even interest them.

Do you see the problem here? Because it took me a while to get it.

My third fiction book, The Road to Hope, was the literary fiction story I always wanted to write, the one where I got to write the truth in fiction. With this one, I suddenly saw a small spike in interest through sales and borrows.

My fourth fiction book, Come Here, Cupcake, bombed (note: I should not be admitting this). It’s supposed to be the start of a magical realism series, but I still haven’t brought myself to write the rest of the books because that one took so much out of me.

My fifth fiction book, Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan, is my favorite book I’ve ever written…and it still hasn’t been noticed. I still have hope that it will pick up, because I truly feel it’s a story almost anyone could enjoy. But perhaps I’m just biased because I’m such a Peter Pan fan.

In between releasing those two books was my non-fiction book, Reclaim Your Creative Soul, my answer to anyone who wondered how to fit creativity into their lives when they also held a job, raised a family, or felt like they were just too busy to do anything they were passionate about. This one had the best of intentions, and a lot of vital information I’ve learned over the years. And yet, I have not been pro-active at all in getting it into the hands of people who need to read it. It’s like I thought I could just release it, and the magic would happen on its own.

That’s eight books in all over the span of four years. Eight books, and I am still working full-time at a highly stressful job, and now going to school so that I might be able to figure out what I want to do with my life that might make me happy because writing novels is not paying the bills.

I’ve spent a lot of energy lamenting my failure as an author. Again, I shouldn’t even write this. No successful author ever admits this. They write about how much they love their fans, and cool things about their book, and post photos of how awesome they are as people because they’re writing books and killing it. Me, I’m spewing my disappointment on these pages because I have 10 or less people who read this blog every day, and it’s way too long and self-loathing for anyone’s attention span.

I’ve spent thousands of dollars on covers, editing, advertising, and everything else it takes to create a book and present it to the world. I’ve spent so much time listening to podcasts, reading articles, and trying to absorb every piece of information I can gather to bring my author business to the next level. I’ve lost sleep in favor of writing, created and posted cool images for social media marketing, sent out newsletters to my mailing list, and tried to build my platform in hopes that I could grow the audience that reads any of my books.

And my sales have flat-lined. Even The Road to Hope, the one I used to see activity on every day, has been forgotten.

I realize now that I’ve spent a lot of energy on all the wrong things. Of my eight books, I have a two-book series that takes place in the afterlife—one that’s geared toward adults, and one toward young adults. I have one literary fiction book. I have a magical realism book. I have a young adult fan-fiction book. I have a parenting memoir. I have a non-fiction guide for creators. I have a poetry book.

I have eight books aimed at eight different audiences. There’s nothing for each audience to come back for, as I keep speaking to a new audience and forgetting the old. Readers can’t figure out what to expect from me, because I haven’t been clear on what I write.

And this is why I’ve failed.

Here’s the truth. I love writing literary fiction. I also love writing magical realism and young adult. I know I can write all of these. I also know people love reading across the genres. However, I need to stick to one at a time, and really build that genre up. Right now, my focus is on The Road to Hope and building that story out into a series. I have an exciting idea for it that will create a series of at least five books, and I hope it generates the same enthusiasm I feel about it.

Back to that plan for the book I’m writing now. To make this book a success, I need to pause and really think about what steps need to happen to get from beginning to end. It takes more than a good idea to write a novel. I need to plot out the story so that I don’t lose my focus as I write.

As well, I need a plan for my author business. I keep wishing for success. I keep getting distracted by all the millions of things I should be doing to gather attention toward my books. I keep begging my family and friends for support, but I don’t know how to reach beyond the people I know and hold on to them as readers. I keep lamenting the fact that I’m still a full-time employee, and my books are costing me more than I make from them. I keep wallowing in depression that things aren’t happening the way they’re supposed to happen, and then wasting my time on things that don’t work…or worse, doing nothing at all because I’m so overwhelmed by too much information, lack of energy, and the weight of failure that remains on my shoulders.

I realize now that, just like my lack of focus in writing to an audience, I’ve also developed a lack of focus when it comes to growing my business. I’ve thrown a lot of things at the wall in hopes that they’ll stick. Goodreads giveaways. Facebook advertising. Promoted Instagram posts. Paid mailing lists. Promoting to friends and family. An occasional call-out to join my mailing list. A weekly newsletter that’s opened by only 20% of the people I send it to. It’s all well and good, but there’s no focus.

So yes, I need a plan. I don’t know what that is, but I do know it needs to be more than just a few sporadic actions with no backbone. On the writing side, my focused plan is to stick to a series, and then build from there. For growing my platform, I still need to figure that out. I’m tired of writing my soul, and then releasing it into oblivion. I’m not just writing for me. Writing is my way of communication. I wish to change people through my stories, to give a new perspective, and to offer inspiration though my characters’ journeys. But that won’t happen if no one is reading my books.

If you’ve read this far, thank you. I know this is just a lot of word vomit on the page. This post is way too long. I shouldn’t even publish this. But I will for several reasons. First, if there are other authors who come across this and are frustrated by the process, I hope to offer my own warning about how lack of focus can kill your business. Second, if I ever do become successful, I want to have something I can look back to so I can remember how hard this was. I want clear evidence of the time when I was ready to throw in the towel so I can be grateful for where I’m at. Third, if I’m ever successful, I want there to be clear evidence to other authors just starting out that it’s not unique to feel lost in this crazy world of novel writing.

If you’re in the same camp as I am—wanting something so bad, feeling like it’s just out of reach, and ready to make a change to get to the next level—please let me know in the comments. I need support today, and I want to connect with others who need the same support. I want to hear from you so that I know I’m not alone. Let’s be miserable together, and then let’s cheer each other on as we move forward in building our businesses.

Getting personal with book selling

Crissi reading

I remember when I first started publishing my books, my marketing focus was on the whole wide world. With the internet at my disposal, it made sense to me. I could reach anyone, anywhere, and sell to hundreds of thousands of people without ever having to leave the comfort of my own home.

My first book did pretty well. I marketed to everyone in the world, which was a hard sell since no one knew of me yet. However, my family and friends knew me, and they bought wholeheartedly.

My next book didn’t do quite as well in sales. I won a small award and sold to some of my family and friends. But the rest of the world ignored me. The story was the same for my next book, as well. By the time my fourth novel was published, I was worn out and couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I questioned my career path as an author, and considered throwing in the towel. After all, I was spending thousands of dollars on this dream of mine, and had nothing to show for it except for some books that no one except a handful of people who loved me seemed to be interested in.

This was around the time that I found the inspiration for Reclaim Your Creative Soul. If you’ve kept up with this blog, you remember when I went on a personal soul retreat that changed my life. It was on this retreat when I addressed all of the dilemmas I had with my life path, conferring with God on how to move forward. I came away from that day with answers to my questions and a new purpose for life, and the seed that would become Reclaim Your Creative Soul.

With this last book, I was very clear about my message and the people I was writing to. I wanted to reach other creatives who felt pulled between their busy life and their craft. Most of us must have a day job to be able to afford our lives, especially when our art isn’t make us money. I wanted to show that it’s totally possible to have both, and I wanted to inspire people to NOT give up on their dreams just because they needed to work for a living (or whatever else was getting in the way of their craft).

With this message in mind, I let go of trying to reach the world, and instead just reached the people around me. The message started out small. I, or course, let my family and friends know. But I also started to spread the word to people I didn’t know, but on a more personal level rather than through the anonymous space of the internet. In this, I signed up for readings and read chapters aloud. I verbally shared about my book to those people who wondered how they could fit creativity in their lives. My marketing endeavors weren’t about making money or selling my book at all. Instead, they were about helping other people to make the most of their time so that they could fit more creativity in their life. That was my main objective.

Fast forward to now. A week ago, I read my book in front of a group of writers and sold a bunch of books who were affected by my message. Word about my book reached a podcaster, and our interview will publish on Monday. I’ve been asked to take part in an exclusive sales opportunity with a small group of other authors I admire. Opportunities are coming my way, and all I’ve done is to refocus my intentions and the audience I hope to reach.

Instead of trying to reach the world, I’m starting out with my own community and then going from there.

This not only takes a ton of pressure off me, it also makes things so much more natural. I am now preparing to publish my next book, Loving the Wind, and my hopes are that this book will reach the most readers I’ve ever reached with any of my books. This time, instead of pushing out ads and promoted Facebook posts to a bunch of people I don’t know, I am utilizing my friends and family to help me spread the word. As of right now, a few dozen of the people I know and love are reading this book as first readers. I contacted each of these people personally, handpicking them because I trust them and know that they like many of my books. When the book publishes on Aug. 18, many of these first readers will be key in helping me to spread news about this book because it’s something they read and enjoyed.

If you’re wondering how you can get your book into the most hands possible but coming away with disappointing results, it’s possible you’re trying to market to too many people. Rather than selling to the whole world, consider starting with your own community. Sign up for an open mic or two and read aloud from your book. See if your library is interested in a reading from a local author. Join an active writer’s group that offers events that will help you reach readers. Contact local book clubs and offer to talk with them if they decide to read your book. Think about the people that you want to reach with your book. Who would be interested? Not everyone will like what you write, but there is a group of people who will love it.

Finally, never underestimate the power of being personal. A Facebook post about your book or an advertisement on a web page are easily ignored. A mass email is a little bit better, but can also go unread. But if you talk to someone one-on-one, the power in that is huge. In this day and age, it’s super convenient to socialize on a broad scale, being impersonal through social media, texting, or the like for the sake of convenience. But if you pick up the phone or meet over coffee? That means so much more to everyone.

As much as possible, try and be personal with those people you wish to reach. If your contact has to be done over email or social media, that’s fine. But make it a personal message, and don’t just rely on your social media broadcasts to reach readers. If you take the time to care about the people you wish to connect with, they can’t help but care about you in return. Their loyalty will increase. They may even wish to help you spread the word about your book.

In connecting with a few readers on a more personal level, you have the opportunity to reach the world.

8 things I wish I’d known as a newbie writer

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As long as I’ve been able to write, I’ve known I wanted to be a writer. But as we all know, the desire to be a writer doesn’t create books alone. I’ve started writing novels, only to give up three chapters in. I’ve hidden my writing so that the world would never see my scribbles. I had aspirations of being a famous novelist, but didn’t know how to get there.

I was in my mid-thirties when I finally published my first novel. Three years later, and I’m gearing up to publish my fifth fiction novel and eight book. I can’t help wondering how many stories I missed writing because I lacked the courage sooner to write them.

Here are eight things I wish I had known as a newbie writer.

1. Don’t wait until tomorrow to start your book.
When people learn I’m an author, they usually tell me that they hope to write a book someday. Buy why wait? What makes someday a more perfect time than today? I put off writing a book for decades. When I finally started writing, it was a scary place to be. Publishing it was even scarier. But after that first book came the second, and then the third, and so on.
If you are waiting until your life gets less busy, stop waiting. There will always be obligations, a full calendar, and that 9-5 job. If something is crossed off your list, another responsibility is bound to take its place. That perfect moment to start writing may never exist. So make the time today to start writing your book.

2. Bad writing only leads to good writing.
The first attempt at anything is terrible. However, if you keep trying, things start to get better. This is true of anything in your life, including writing. I think back to the very first novel I ever wrote. It was awful! I put a lot of time and energy into that book, only to stuff it under my bed, never to see the light of day again. Without that first attempt at novel writing, I may never have gone on to write novels I was proud to share.
The same things goes for my rough drafts. I’ve stripped out chapters of books I’ve written that took days to create. While it hurt to let them go, I don’t regret having written them. They served as the bridge to the parts of the story I wanted to tell.

3. You are just as capable of greatness as the writers you admire most.
Many great writers had humble beginnings. JK Rowling began writing Harry Potter in a coffee shop, barely making it as a single mother. Stephen King initially threw away the manuscript that eventually put his name on the map. Diana Gabaldon started out as a freelance writer, taking any job that would pay her. Nicholas Sparks racked up years of debt and rejection letters before selling the manuscript to The Notebook.
If your writing isn’t where you want it to be, or your book is largely ignored, you may just be in your humble beginning. Remember this time. When you make it big, you can use your backstory to encourage other writers who are aspiring for greatness.

4. Write EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Once you start writing your novel, don’t skip even one day of writing. Even if you only write 50 words some of those days, you have to stick with that story. Otherwise, numerous obstacles are going to attempt war on your writing efforts. You’ll lose interest in the story. You’ll doubt your abilities as a writer. You’ll lose track of the storyline. You’ll fill up your writing time with other things.
To be a writer, you have to keep your writing muscle conditioned. Skipping one day may lead to a second skipped day. Before you know it, you’ll have missed a week of writing, and that novel will end up an unrealized dream.

5. Step out of the writing cave now and then.
Yes, you need to write every day. However, a great story doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Get out of your house occasionally. Visit with friends, enjoy the fresh air, and practice your communication skills. After all, you never know when an experience might make it into one of your stories.

6. Learning is a lifelong process.
There will always be things you don’t know about writing. There are writers who are more talented than you are. There are ways your novel can improve. Rather than throwing in the towel, aim to be better. Take workshops or classes. Seek advice from other writers. Read, read, and read! Never stop learning.

7. Write what you love, and stop writing what you don’t love.
There are going to be days when the story you’re writing just isn’t there. As a novelist, your job is to keep plugging away until you hit your stride again. However, sometimes the story just isn’t there. If the book you’re writing has lost its appeal for good, it’s okay to put it down and start something new. Why waste your time on something you don’t enjoy? It could be keeping you from the story you were meant to write.

8. Being an author is not a way to get rich quick.
Three years ago when I published my first book, I had visions of the mansion I would buy with my millions, the movie contracts I would sign, how my kids’ college would be paid for, the speech I would give my boss when I quit my job…. Three years later, I am still working the same hours at the same job. I am a hundredaire on the income from my books, though I still haven’t made more than I’ve spent producing them. No movie director has contacted me. And I still get excited over each sale and review.
There are times when I am frustrated that I haven’t hit the jackpot with my books. When I focus on my numbers, it makes me want to throw in the towel. That’s why numbers are the wrong thing to focus on.
As an author, you MUST remember why you are doing this. You love writing. You have stories to tell. This is your creative outlet. You are passionate about creating books.
Don’t forget the reason why you started writing in the first place, especially when success proves to be elusive. And if you started writing as a way to make millions, start looking for a different profession.

How about you? What advice do you wish you had known as a newbie writer?

Hair woes, “instant” success, and living in Generation NOW

I’ve been having hair indecisiveness lately. It all started last November, as I faced my 36th birthday (you know, the one that makes you in your LATE thirties instead of your EARLY thirties), when I decided I wanted to cut off ALL my hair. I wanted my hair to look like Jennifer Lawrence, even though I don’t make clumsy look cute, and I’m not in my twenties with a styling team behind me. I didn’t care. I wanted to sport the pixie, and knew I would look young and chic and sassy.

My hairdresser, however, was a little freaked out by this request. I’ve had loooong hair pretty much all my life, so going from that to a pixie was a bit of a jump. So she talked me into an a-line haircut. She trimmed the back all the way up to my neck, and the front sloped down to my shoulders. It was super cute, and I totally loved it.

When it started to get long again, I went back in to get the same cut. I expected the same bit of sass to come out of her scissors. What I ended up with, however, was a MOM cut. I looked older than my age. I didn’t even want to look my age, let alone older! After going home and doing my best to style it, I realized that this was NOT the cut I had originally gotten. And it just wasn’t working. I called my hairdresser the next day, and she promised to fix it when she had an opening at the end of the week.

Of course, a funny thing happened by the time Friday came. My hair looked fine. But I was not going to be the one to say it. I let her trim things up and work her magic, and I came away with a great haircut that looked even better after a few days had passed.

Three days ago, I went back in for a haircut. This time, I cheated on my hairdresser with a cheaper salon. And I told the lady I wanted it short, short, short. But I didn’t want it to do the weird flippy thing it was doing. She talked me into longer layers to go with the short do, and had her way with my hair.

Now, dang it, I am not a person who speaks up in disappointment. If I did, it would be interrupted by my lame tears, because I pretty much cry whenever I feel strongly about something. So when I looked in the mirror and saw RAMONA QUIMBY looking back at me, I wanted to wither and die. I wanted to leave the salon with a bag over my head. I wanted to do everything in my power to make myself invisible. Instead, I smiled at the lady, thanked her, and gave her a 20% tip. Because that’s the ridiculous person I am.

My husband could see the disappointment in my eyes. Worse, he could see the haircut. Worsest, I could see that HE didn’t like it.

“It’s cute,” he lied, and then he avoided looking at me all night long. I’m not making this up. For two days, he avoided eye contact with me.

Then a few funny things happened. First, my hair relaxed into the haircut. Second, I began playing around with it, learning the ways that it looked best. Third, it started to look cute. I mean, really cute.

“Wow, your hair,” my husband said to me yesterday. I had clipped it back in small french braids so that it hung in the back but away from my face. And I felt pretty adorable. Then today, I received several compliments about the scrunched look I gave my hair.

“How did you get your hair to do that?” my coworker asked me. And I could tell that in the moment she was actually jealous of my hair – the same hair that I wanted to hide under a bag only days before.

There’s a lesson in this, and it has to do with instant gratification, as well as high expectations.

Just like with my hair, I expected extremely great things for my first book, A Symphony of Cicadas. Not that it would make me look young and sassy, but that people would read it and be changed forever. Back in March of 2013, I published that book, hearing the warnings that no first-time author hits it big on the very first try. I heard it, but I didn’t listen. The first few months, the sales trickled in. And by trickling in, I mean I was selling only 1-6 copies most days.

Oh, how naive I was to believe that was BAD, that ANY number of sales could be bad.

After the newness of the book wore off, the sales tapered down as well. I published my poetry book and a book of parenting essays to try to grab the attention of the crowd again. But nothing was happening.

Then this last March, I published Forever Thirteen, the follow-up novel to A Symphony of Cicadas. This time, I put a marketing plan in place. It wasn’t a huge plan, but it was something. And I fully expected the numbers to roll on in. And they did…just a little bit smaller than I expected.

We live in a culture of right here, right now. On Facebook, we post photos and then feel disappointed when someone doesn’t comment on them right away. We email our coworkers and then walk over to their desk to ask if they go it (not me, this drives me crazy!). We send out a Tweet, and if it doesn’t get retweeted, we tweet it again. We go on a diet, then give up when we don’t lose weight within the first two days. We can’t live in the moment, but have to take photos of it and share it across various forms of social media. We even laugh at the graduates who think they deserve a high paying job right off the bat, but then we do the same thing by expecting instant success with our first attempt at greatness.

I expected to be discovered as an author, for my book to be picked up as a movie, for me to be moving into my mansion and deciding how to spend my JK Rowling fortune. Sixteen months into this, I am still working my day job, fighting to find time to write my novel, and spending more money on everything it takes to publish it then I’ll see from sales.

Thing is, I make peace with this constantly. I mean, I grapple with low sales and the yearning to be discovered. But I also hold on to the fact that I am doing it – I’m doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing. I’m writing books. Can’t that be enough? At least for now?

Last night, the trailer for If I Stay came on. My husband hadn’t heard of it before, and I watched the look of shock cross his face as he watched it. The premise was on the same plane as A Symphony of Cicadas. Except my book isn’t some soon-to-be blockbuster hit.

“That should be your book,” he said. Yeah, but it’s not. And I have work to do if I want it to get there. And it’s not going to happen overnight. But if I keep doing what I’m doing, and striving to move forward, my books could be on your TV screen as a movie trailer, too.

P.S. If I Stay was written in 2009. That means it took 5 years for it to hit the big screen and become a “runaway success.” Just an FYI. 🙂

P.P.S. A pixie cut is still not out of the question. 😀

CrissiHair