January 31st, 2014 marks the one year anniversary of the day I released my book Unlove in the iBooks store. I have had many happy days in my life, but January 31st, 2013 truly stands out as one of my top 5.
During that first month of bliss I thought I was unstoppable. A radio show offer literally fell in my lap, people read my book, and I wasn’t hauled into the town square to have stones thrown at me. In fact, I received some really positive and beautiful comments. A perfect stranger told me that I made people “feel” with my words. How extraordinary is that?
But then like a bad relationship with that super-cute bad boy you couldn’t resist, it all started to crumble. The radio interview fell through. I discovered that half the people I know couldn’t even buy my book because they didn’t own an iPad or an iPhone. I realized (a bit too late), that I hate self-promotion. In fact, there is nothing that I hate more and I don’t use the word “hate” lightly. Self-promotion petrifies me. Stops me in my tracks. I start to sweat at the thought of telling someone why they should buy my book. In fact, my mind goes completely blank and I can’t even think of a single reason why anyone would want to read it. Once all my iPhone/iPad carrying friends bought it, sales came to a screeching halt and along with the sales, my dreams of helping both the Somaly Mam Foundation and Room to Read. I can’t even begin to tell you how disappointed I was.
Then in April of 2013, I decided to prove to myself one way or another if my poetry was any good and I submitted two brand new poems to an online poetry magazine. I edited and edited until every last superfluous word had been removed and the stanzas flowed. I edited until I couldn’t possibly imagine one more change that could be made.
I submitted my work to the Editor and a few weeks later I got a rejection letter that devastated me. “Thank-you for your submission. Although it was close … blah, blah, blah … some people felt that there was nothing new in your poetry.” (WHAT???) “We welcome you to join our Let Us Tell You All the Ways Your Poetry Sucks workshop,” (okay I ad-libbed there) “and feel free to resubmit.” (Over my dead and decomposed body!)
That rejection letter stunted my ability to write for the rest of 2013. I’m not just talking about poetry that would then maybe be released out into the world again. I’m talking any kind of writing other than the emails I had to do at work to eat. I hesitated to write a cheque. No poems, no stories, no funny quips. I couldn’t even journal for 6 months. Me, the girl who has been journalling since she was 12. I was too scared to write my own thoughts down on paper in case someone accidentally saw them and ridiculed me.
My boyfriend tried all kinds of ways to encourage me. We brainstormed different ideas for books I could write that had nothing to do with pouring my guts out on a piece of paper, only to be mocked. I talked about them, but I just couldn’t gather any enthusiasm. What was the point?
Sometime in November, I slowly gathered the courage to start journaling again. Nothing too crazy. Just a few words here and there to capture how I was passing my days. My boyfriend tried to encourage me again and told me to write an outline for a new book, just for him. No commitment to write it, no pressure at all. Just an outline. I couldn’t do it.
Then it happened. A small post on Facebook caught my eye and I could feel a small spark — which was quickly doused — in my gut. “Selling Your Book” — an 8 week course at University of Toronto School for Continuing Studies, for writers who have published a book but don’t know how to promote it. Uh, hello! I pretended to ignore it for the first 10 days that it popped up in my newsfeed. Each time the spark got a little brighter and a little voice in my head started saying, “just think about it.”
One day I logged into Facebook and I realized that I had logged on just to see the ad! “Okay,” I told myself, “If you’re really meant to take this course, ask the Universe for a clear sign.” Yes, that’s how I roll with big life decisions. The Universe and I do it together. You’re gonna hear a lot about that if you continue to read this blog.
The first thing I see is a post by Iyanla Vanzant that said something to the effect of: the Universe is always trying to lead you towards your life’s work, but you need trust and listen to the signs. Uh huh. See how this stuff works?
Alrighty Universe, try this: I am going to email the course description to my boyfriend, and get his input. Anytime I’ve talked to him about taking a writing course he has discouraged me because he firmly believes that if you have a passion for writing, you should just write. He doesn’t believe in rule-following in general but particularly in writing. So I fired off an email and waited for the predictable response. How surprised was I when what I got back was, “I think its a great idea!” Wait … WTF??? Okay, okay, one FINAL test. If I log onto Facebook and I see the ad again, then I am definitively and without a doubt meant to take this course.
Course starts tomorrow. And that little spark, it’s still there, but don’t tell anyone.