Thirty years ago, at the age of twelve, I sat down with a brand new pack of wide ruled notebook paper, a pencil, and a dream. Reading and music had been my entire life from the time I was eleven onward. But on this particular day so long ago, I had read every book in my house, using the many wonderful worlds as a way to escape from the brutal abuse of my father. I had read everything I had, most of my books so dog-eared and worn from countless passes with my swift eyes. On that day, thirty years ago, I needed something more. So I put on my headphones, hit PLAY on my Poison Open Up and Say .. Ahh!! album, turned up the volume on my cassette player, and sat down on my bed to do something I had tried many times to do before but had never finished.
Nearly a year later, after spending every spare second I could after school and around the many hours of homework and housework, with my music turned wide open, I finally finished my very first book.
That first finished novel lit a fire inside of me, one which would burn brighter and brighter each year. No matter how many books I read, nothing could feed my desire to create worlds quite like writing could.
While still in high school, I would pen two more novels, bringing my count up to three within six years. Soon, however, I was married with my first child, and writing was something which was pushed to the back-burner more often than not.
In 2005, after a string of unlucky events, I discovered myself jobless and expecting my third child. Times were extremely difficult. Hurricane Katrina had nearly destroyed our house, our insurance company flaked, and we were trying to raise three children on a single income of less than $25K a year while living in a home with the roof caving in. I spent countless nights staring up at the hole in our bedroom ceiling, crying myself to sleep, all while our children kept getting sick from the mold and mildew growing in every nook and cranny of the house we had called home for nearly a decade.
I did the only thing I knew how to do to cope with my sad reality – I wrote.
Times were extremely tough for us over the next seven years. My husband and I spent so much time worrying about how we were going to pay the bills. At some point during those seven years everything had been cut off or repossessed at one point or another – the electricity, the water, the natural gas. My husband’s truck was repossessed. After all the abuse I had suffered growing up, I was sure this immense poverty and uncertainty of how I was going to feed and clothe my children was what was going to end up breaking me. I was worried, we were all sick all the time, and I was absolutely guilt-ridden because my children were being cheated out of their childhood.
I thought once I was grown and had moved out of my childhood home the tears would finally stop. But that’s not what happened. I cried so many nights, worried constantly. You have no idea how terrifying it is to constantly fear someone was going to take my kids away from me because our house was falling in and many times the kids didn’t have decent clothes. My children stopped having birthday parties because we couldn’t afford it. They never had sleepovers because we were all too ashamed of what our house looked like.
In desperation, we sold off everything we had to send me back to college. In 2012, after finally graduating with my business degree and saving every spare penny we could for the last seven years, we were able to close on an old house that was in dire need of major restoration.
Up until that point I had continued to write, using it as a way to cope from the crushing reality we weren’t able to change. By that time I had written three more novels. But for the next eighteen months, the five of us put our entire lives on hold as my husband and I single-handedly ripped apart the new house and remodeled it from the floor up. My oldest missed having a sweet sixteen birthday party because we needed the money to put into the renovations. We put every spare penny we had into that house, every spare second we could find. My husband and I both forgot our eighteenth wedding anniversary because we spent that day painting in the new house. We were exhausted physically, mentally, and financially, but we knew it would all be worth it to finally not be kept up by the rain at night as we walked through our children’s bedrooms to make sure their beds weren’t in the direct line of yet another leak in the roof.
In 2014, the day after Thanksgiving, we spent our first night in the new house. I cried as I helped my oldest move her items into her new bedroom, the interior still smelling like fresh paint. It was the first time she had had her own bedroom in seven years.
I felt like a complete and utter failure as a parent. We finally had this beautiful albeit plain house for the first time in years, but I couldn’t help but feel like this is what my children should have had the first time around. I felt like my children had been cheated out of their childhood, all because we couldn’t afford a nice home.
But that year we had Christmas at the new house, and birthday parties, and New Year’s parties. It was the first time in so many years I happily invited people into my home and didn’t have to worry about what they were thinking because the roof was caving in and every room in the house poured whenever it rained.
As I had on so many occasions, I had put my writing on the back-burner. But in 2014 my passion for the written word was rekindled into a burning flame. In the last three years I have written and published seven more novels. I’ve poured my heart and soul into these books. It’s been far from easy. I’ve sacrificed spending time with my husband, my children, cleaning the house, cooking meals, all so I could squeeze in just another hour of writing.
Thirty years. That’s how long it’s been since I took my first steps toward being a writer. During high school, while I was still penning novels, I was also spending my entire weekend at the library pouring over writing books, looking up the names and addresses of publishers both big and small, literary agents, learning how to write query letters, and sending sample chapters out to anyone and everyone. I was getting scathing rejection letters from Random House at the tender age of 15. Despite several sabbaticals I’ve taken from writing to deal with life’s many curve balls, I’ve always only had one real goal for my life –to become a bestselling author.
Today, despite ten novels and several shorts and me busting my ass doing anything and everything all the marketing and promotion gurus have said do, I’m still batting zero. The entire process has me sinking into deep depression at least once a month. And there is nothing like seeing a post from a bestselling author talking about how “hard” his/her five-year writing journey has been to really make me see red.
Trust me, you don’t the meaning of the word.
For every tear you have shed, there are authors out there who have shed a hundred times more. For every year you have been working toward your success, there are authors out there who have spent decades trying to accomplish just one tenth of your success. For every book you’ve written, there are authors out there who have written ten more, and are still waiting for their “lucky” break.
Thirty years. And it gets harder every single day to keep putting one foot in front of the other, one more word down onto paper.
Despite all this – no matter how low my ranking on Amazon gets, no matter how many people unsubscribe from my newsletter list, no matter how many months I go in between selling a book or seeing a new review, I keep going. After all I’ve been through, after all the physical beatings I’ve received and the amount of shit which life has tossed onto me over the years, I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am a fighter. I don’t know what it means to quit.
Because you see, I may not be a bestselling author, but I’m pretty sure if all the bestselling authors out there had gone thirty plus years without a single drop of success to show for all their hard work, they wouldn’t still be writing.
But I will.
And I’ll never, ever stop.