Plan A was to sell millions of books and become rich and famous, which did not happen. Plan B was to sell a moderate but steady amount of books, which would allow me to be a full-time author. This is no longer happening. Plan C was to go back to school, become a teacher, and write on the side until I struck gold and could stash all that cash away for an early retirement. Now, early “retirement” is slowly slipping from my grasp, which brings me to plan D: Enjoy my life while making art I love.
I can’t think about the money anymore. It’s agonizing and exhausting, and in the grand scheme of things, means far less than my health and happiness. Could the money I was making last year aid me in my quest to achieve health and happiness? Sure, but only because it would bring me peace of mind. But there’s something else that has been giving me peace of mind lately, something that just last week was the source of much of my terror–the fact that, once again, I am making art that matters to no one but me.
How do I know this? Well, because we’re almost five months from the pub date of Pen & Xander and this little, invisible, book of my heart has still only sold 27 copies. And that’s okay. It’s okay because I needed to write this book and because I learned so much in the process.
I learned what it is I want to say and how I want to say it. I learned that I have a responsibility to write these kinds of characters, characters I craved as a kid but could never find. I learned that the creative process is its own reward and that just because this book hasn’t found its audience today doesn’t mean that in a year or five or ten it won’t resonate with someone as powerfully as it has with me. I learned that it’s okay to create something no one else cares or even knows about. Nothing is in vain. This book is not a failure and neither am I.
So, what does Plan D really look like? Well, it actually looks a lot like my old life when I was working 60 hours a week and writing every spare second in between. Only this time I’m not breaking myself in the process. I’m writing because I want to, not because I need to generate more income. I still want to make money and be able to write full time someday. But setbacks in my creative life have shown me that I have a lot of other gifts that are worth pouring into. I’m a good teacher. I’m not ready to give that up.
And maybe that’s why Pen & Xander hasn’t been a runaway success. Because, for the time being, I’m supposed to be in the classroom. I’m needed there, which means I’m fulfilling my purpose there. A person can have more than one. Destiny is not a narrow straight but a winding, bumpy trunk that erupts in a dazzling display of branches. Destiny is messy and full of back and forth, push and pull. Tension. Surprise.
I’m not used to allowing myself to feel surprised. Surprises scare me because they are out of my control. But I don’t need to be in control of every little detail. The minutiae may be messy, but if I stand back and examine it in the light, it is still just as beautiful as I’d hoped it would be. Maybe even more so.