Figuring It Out

Sometimes I think it’s easy to convince ourselves what others want is what we want too. Sometimes it’s extremely difficult to see that what we truly, deeply want is something we’ve been fighting all along. For years, I’ve convinced myself publishing my own work was a secondary choice — something I was only doing because my publisher closed their doors and I had no other choice. It was so much easier to believe that “truth”, especially in a writing community where Indie-publishing isn’t exactly put up on a pedestal.

For so long, I’ve prefaced all my publishing conversations with, “Oh, I was traditionally published, but my publisher left the business. Not my fault.” That helped me keep my chin high. I was respectable if others understood that my work was previously validated by the traditional publishing industry. I was a Real Author at that point.

But here’s the problem: I ache for respect — from my family, from friends, from complete strangers. It’s a natural thing to crave, I suppose. But I’ve let that desire overtake so many things in my life. I’ve let it fester so deeply that I’ve mistaken it for what I thought would make me happy. But it’s not what will make me happy. Respect from others cannot replace the gaping hole I’ve dug for myself — a hole filled with shame and disrespect … for myself.

2016 was an eye-opening year for me. I went through some tough changes that have nothing to do with writing and publishing. But those things have helped me see one very important thing: nobody can escape themselves forever.

I can’t count on my fingers how many friends have told me my eyes light up every time I talk about publishing my own work, and how depressed and miserable I look when I talk about querying for an agent and finally getting a publishing deal like everyone else around me. I’ve constantly battled between the two worlds. Which one do I embrace? For a long time I thought I could embrace both. I would continue to query for agents, and if those books failed, I would publish them myself.

But the truth is that I’ve only wanted to do that so people would respect me for trying to jump into the traditionally published world — a world I’ve convinced myself will make me deliriously happy if I’m ever lucky enough to be admitted. The other truth is that I’ve completely ignored the fact that most people don’t respect you for your accomplishments and supposed success. They respect you for standing by what you believe in, for being YOU instead of trying to be something you’re not. True success is nothing but a side effect of that.

So, yes, it has been far too easy to convince myself what others want is what I want too, and it took some very difficult changes for me to realize that what I want right now is something I already have. I was just too stubborn to see it until now. And what I want might change in the future, but that’s okay. For now, I’ve got to embrace what I have. Here’s to hoping you can embrace what you have too, no matter what it is.

6 comments on “Figuring It Out

  1. Thanks for putting this out there. I had an agent four years ago, and after we parted ways I had to force myself to get back into querying, and it was just drudgery. As much as anyone would want to hit it out of the park with a huge contract, there’s a lot to be said about doing what makes you happy even if it’s unconventional. This was a helpful post.

  2. Jaimie says:

    This is beautiful, Michelle. Watching my grandmother self-publish after having had a publisher… Well let’s just say you have all the talent to do it yourself. I actually showed her a few of your book covers during a discussion. It wasn’t in the context of you self-publishing, just good book covers. I’m glad stuff clicked for you. I know I still have a bit of that ahead of me

    • Thank you, Jaimie! I know you’ve struggled too, and I hope and pray you find a good place too. The thing I’ve learned is that even finding a good place is no guarantee for anything, and it doesn’t mean it will last. But I also feel like the struggle to find the good places makes us that much stronger and able to keep going, even during the hard times. Keep on writing on.

  3. Dave says:

    Great post, Michelle. I actually have no interest in querying and going the traditional route, so I”m happy to know that others are happy with the same decision.

    Now, I just have to finish writing what I’m going to be self-publishing … 🙂

    • Oy, I hear you Dave! I’m publishing a new novel in May, but it’s been years in the making. I have all these plans to publish another novel in November, but I haven’t even passed 30,000 words yet. Here’s to hoping I can get it finished and stick to my goals! Good luck with yours too!

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