I’ve been in a lot of writing classes lately, and one of the pieces of advice I’ve heard repeatedly is “As soon as you finish one project, start another one.” The point of this admonition, as I understand it, is not only to continually hone your craft but also to demonstrate to a potential publisher that you always have another book or article just weeks or months away from completion.
Putting that into practice has proven to be a bit of a challenge for me. When The Last Resort was finally available for purchase, I was ready to kick back and take a breather. Granted, on that project I wore a lot of hats: I wasn’t the author, but I was an editor, the book designer, the operations manager, the financial manager, the website and software manager, the interviewer, the Anderson County expert (solely because of my family’s roots), and the general contractor, responsible for handling the contributions from various craftspeople (artists, photographers, and mapmakers, to name a few). Little did I realize as the book went to print how much time I was just beginning in invest in marketing. So, when I look back on it, perhaps I had good reason for wanting to celebrate what we had accomplished, instead of digging immediately into my next project.
But other commitments I had made didn’t allow me to step away from the grind. About a week after the book was published, I started a nine-month partnership with a mentor who is helping me shape a novel about a very different character in my family’s history, my maternal grandfather. In many ways, that project is much more daunting for me. I don’t really see myself as a creative writer, and I’ve never written fiction. That alone would probably halt any reasonable person from taking on such a challenge. But I’m intrepid, if not very wise. And I had an incredible story fall into my lap, so I feel some responsibility for rendering it in a compelling fashion on the page.
So now here I am, trying to juggle ongoing marketing responsibilities and my somewhat harrowing attempt at crafting a novel, plus assignments for my writing classes and the writing and editing I do part-time to earn a living. Some days I find myself leaping from one to the other every hour or even half hour. It can be wildly disorienting, and I wonder if anything is being done well.
But I have to embrace this amazing opportunity I have created for myself. In part because of my wanton fearlessness—and thanks to a very understanding and encouraging husband—I am doing something many people dream about but never give themselves permission to pursue. I, on the other hand, never really saw myself as a writer, but somehow stumbled into this place. The one thing I have learned in my many decades on this earth is to welcome every unexpected twist in your own life story with enthusiasm and bravado. Who knows where it might take you?