These are two words that have been floating around my mind for months. They’re just words, unless you can feel each and every moment of the 365 days these two words represent.
It was my personal deadline. As far back as I can remember, the thing that I really would have liked to have done was write a book. Quietly, on my own, I took all of the year 2015 and discovered what it was like to chase a dream. If I had not accomplished it in that time, then I would never speak of it again.
One year ago, to this very day I shared with the world what that dream was.
One year ago, I discovered what it was like to have unabashed hope and heartbreaking sorrow all within the same heartbeat.
Every day since I have gone to bed wondering if tomorrow will be the day that I stop chasing dreams.
Every day since I have found at least one reason to keep going.
It’s been a year since the announcement of my first book. My life, while ideally the same as it ever was, is wildly different. I look around this office of mine, and smile at my name on the door. That wasn’t there a year ago. Neither was the stack of well-read Romance Writer Report magazines, or the pile of reference books for my writerly brain to consume. Nor were there presenter badges from the Baltimore Book Festival, or a beautiful thank you card from a woman in Mississippi who enjoyed my book so much she thought to write me and tell me.
My social media time has changed vastly from skimming to see the latest happenings of my friends and family, to skimming helpful articles and groups who are preparing for NANOWRIMO. My phone pings with excitement, bouncing critique type messages back and forth between the five most important other writers in my life and myself.
My time is no longer counted by the second, it’s counted by the word.
These are all good changes. Each of the last 365 days has brought me closer to the person that I have always wanted to be.
But like with all hard work, it has not come without blood, sweat and tears.
There have been a lot of tears.
I have learned that my dream, while wildly important to me, is not all that important to anyone else.
I have learned that not all support groups are supportive.
I have learned that feelings invested are not always feelings returned.
I have learned that in order to receive validation from some, I have to compromise my values.
I work damn hard. And while I do “have” a publisher, having one at all does not validate my work to me.
My hard work validates it.
My determination validates it.
My creativity validates it.
I validate it.
I was recently told that if I ever wanted to make it as a writer, that I would have to figure out what my audience wants and produce it. Over and over and over and over. I will get no attention with writing just one book a year, and I may as well pack up and say my goodbyes if it’s not a series.
I refuse to accept that.
There are moments of this last year that did nothing short of break me.
But I’m still here.
I’m still here because a stranger who reads a book a day told me that Olivia was the most relatable character she’s ever read.
I’m still here because a woman at the pool excitedly chattered on and on about how sexy Rohan is.
I’m still here because just before I gave a speech, the organizer of the event told me she had the chance to read my book and could not put it down.
I’m still here because I have five other writers, whispering in my ear, that 15 pages at a time is not enough. They want more.
The New York Times best-selling list may never be a list that I find my name on, but that doesn’t mean that the story that I share is any less of a value to a reader.
My first book laid on my heart for twenty years. My entire youth is giftwrapped within its pages.
My second book holds such pride. Born from my first set of writing classes, it reminds me how capable I am of learning.
Today NANOWRIMO begins. And rather than dreaming, I will be typing.
These are the first two words of the best book I’ve written yet. I cannot wait to share it with you.