Prove Them Wrong
I woke up on June 1st in a Motel 6 somewhere north of Seattle. I lay awake for a while, listening to cars and trucks pass on the interstate outside, and I couldn't chase the thought from my head that it was time to retire.
I'd just finished an incredible month on the road, touring from the Yukon Territory to Texas, Arizona and California in early May, and then driving from Maine to Washington State in the latter two weeks of the month, all in support of my ninth novel, GALE FORCE.
It had been an epic, memorable and incredibly fun month. I'd seen a lot of old friends and made plenty of new ones, visited libraries and bookstores big and small across the continent. I'll never forget the adventure.
But I was exhausted, and though I'd tried to put a brave face on things while I was on the road, I couldn't run away from the reality that, nine books into my writing career, my sales and readership were clearly stagnating, if not diminishing.
I'd been lucky to pull ten (invariably wonderful) people to my events across the country, whether in tiny community libraries up north, or in popular bookstores in major U.S. cities, places I'd toured for years, where, ideally, I'd have liked to have grown a bigger readership by now.
A few days later, I learned from my agent that GALE FORCE's publisher wasn't planning to put out a paperback edition of the novel.
They hadn't done paperbacks of my previous two books, either, and though I hadn't believed it was my place to question the decision at the time, in hindsight, I really wished I'd spoken up.
Certainly, I would never have signed a contract for GALE FORCE had I known there wouldn't be a paperback.
Writing is a tough business. It's tough to break into, and it's tough to build a career from.
For me--and I've said this before--it's all fuelled by a reservoir of hope.
What I like about this business is the knowledge that, if I sit down at my computer and type a thousand words a day for three months, and edit them like a champ and align myself with the right people, there's always a chance that the book I produce could be the one that blows up.
I write because I love to write, yeah, and because I'd go freaking nuts without creative expression, but from a business standpoint, I'm pushed by the knowledge that there's no ceiling to what I can achieve as a writer.
I believe in my talent, and I believe in my work ethic.
I have always believed that if I put in the hours, one day, the readers will come.
And they'll come in droves.
But in early June, I was exhausted and demoralized. And throughout the summer, I have batted around this idea of retirement.
I haven't felt the joy in writing very much, as of late. My reservoir of hope has run dry.
I tried another tack, in early June. I got in touch with a Hollywood hotshot, a kingmaker, and to my delight, he was open to working together. We began to develop a project.
I put the cart before the horses, so to speak, and mentally began to spend the millions we'd surely make together.
But time passed. And the momentum I thought we'd built soon dissipated into an uncomfortable holding pattern of missed calls and unreturned emails.
I dated a woman once who was miles out of my league. I don't say this to be modest.
She was an international model with a postgraduate degree, and I was a boy in his first apartment, barely self-sufficient and, more importantly, mentally miles away from manhood.
We had chemistry, though. It's a cliche, but almost from the moment we sat down on our first date, we were really into each other.
We kissed outside her apartment for like a half-hour, like teenagers, that first night.
On the third date, she spent the night at my admittedly crummy apartment. She left in the morning, and I never saw her again.
We texted, though. We made vague, nebulous plans that she never followed through on. There was always some reason she couldn't see my again.
But I was still holding onto that magic I'd felt during our first date. Logically, I knew something was up, but I refused to believe it.
That's kind of how it was with this Hollywood guy.
I convinced myself that he, like this woman I'd dated, was my best/last/only chance at happiness, and that, therefore, if it didn't work out, I was doomed.
I convinced myself that my career was in shambles, that there was no point in even trying anymore if the Hollywood thing--*this* Hollywood thing, in particular--didn't work out.
Logically, I could see that it wasn't working out, no matter how much I wanted it to.
And so I thought, long and hard, about retirement.
I went away for a couple of weeks at the end of July. I had a lot of time on planes, trains, in taxis and canoes, to think about what I would be doing with my life if I wasn't writing.
Fundamentally, I couldn't come to a decent alternative. I just can't see myself doing anything else.
And so when I got back to the eco lodge, I set about trying to chart a path forward.
A lot of my friends have offered wonderful advice, the esteemed author Reed F. Coleman among them.
I like that.
I'm stealing it.
I have a book coming out next year, and another under contract for the year after. I'm stoked about them. They're freaking rad. You're going to love them.
My reservoir of hope gets a little bit more full just thinking about them.
In the meantime, I'm keeping myself busy.
(And by keeping myself busy, I mean I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone, started setting an alarm, and sucking it up and writing like a goddamn professional, instead of moaning, scrolling social media, and/or waiting for Hollywood to call back.)
I still like the Hollywood plan. I'm writing a screenplay, ten pages a day. I'm halfway done the first draft.
When I finish it, I'm going to write another screenplay.
I'm going to write a screenplay a month until someone buys the rights or they pay me to stop.
I'm working on another project, too, a novel. I write a thousand words a day, and when I finish it, I'm going to sit on it for a while, and then edit the shit out of it and we're going to sell it, somewhere.
And if it doesn't sell, I'll self-publish it.
And while I'm waiting to edit that novel, I'll write another novel.
This is how I broke into this business. Fuelled by that reservoir of hope, and intoxicated by possibility.
And every rejection was more fuel for the fire, too.
I don't like operating with a chip on my shoulder, or a grudge, or a victim complex or a sense I've been wronged.
I chose this career.
More people have believed in me than have discounted my potential.
But those who have?
Fuck 'em. I'm going to prove them all wrong.