Recently, a friend and fellow author made a comment I found disturbing: “I always get what I want.” She made it clear she had no problem with getting in publishers’ faces to make her goals attainable. I found it disturbing because her statements made me think of another writer I know quite well: me.
My friend’s determination can be a blessing or it can be a curse. It can take her just about anywhere she wants to go…or it can make her desperately unhappy. I’ve experienced both.
When I began my career, I felt like Leonardo diCaprio on the bow of the pre-iceberg Titanic. I was the queen of the world: three books under contract with advances totaling six figures, promises of a prominent position on the publisher’s list, advertising, publicity, the works. I had, in my estimation, the best agent and editor in the business. When I went to New York, I got the star treatment. I should have been the happiest person in the world. So why wasn’t I?
I’d made an unsettling discovery. How they saw me as an author and how I saw myself were not in sync and never would be. I was viewed as the next Danielle Steel. What did that mean for my future, I wondered–writing sappy romances and having multiple marriages?
I rebelled. This was not me. I’m a middle-class Midwestern girl who doesn’t know Donna Karan from Kmart. Jeans and T-shirts. I make it a rule to never wear jewelry someone would be willing to kill me for. There’s a photograph of me out there in a fur coat, for crying out loud! I’m an animal rights activist! I consider Town and Country the most boring publication ever printed.
I grew increasingly unhappy, taking offense at just about everything. It didn’t take much to trigger an emotional outburst from me. Fellow authors advised me to “take the money and run,” but I’m not made that way. I’m not one to settle for less than what I really want. I don’t give up easily, but once I realize it’s not working and not going to change, I’ll walk away. As Kenny Rogers sang, “Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” I should have paid special attention to the line that followed those well-known lyrics: Know when to walk away. Know when to run.
I should have cut and run.
When Maria (my agent) rejected a project I dearly loved because it “wasn’t glamorous,” I knew it was time to leave the game, but I couldn’t quite give up. I wish I had, because my unhappiness with the direction my career was taking, compounded by a personal crisis, soon put me in self-destruct mode. You know that saying about burning bridges? I blew mine up on my way out.
Oh, there were many people in the business who were still willing to work with me–we had a total of four agents representing Chasing the Wind–but I was still dissatisfied. That was when I realized the only option for me was self-publishing. Pride got in the way at first, but once I took the plunge, I found a happiness and contentment I could never have known in New York.
So yes, when I heard my friend say “I always get what I want,” I was concerned. The reality, in publishing and in life, is that no one always gets what they want.
Definitely not in publishing….