What a difference a year makes. Do you ever take a moment to think about what you’ve done in the last twelve months? How far you’ve come, how much you’ve grown, what you’ve accomplished? I don’t mean necessarily on New Year’s Day, I mean some other demarcation in the year, a date that’s meaningful to you. There are a couple big days for me right now that I use as measurements for progress. One date is April 11, 2016. That is the day that my sweet German Shepherd succumbed, quite traumatically, to a brain tumor in our home. Another is September 26th, 2015, the date I started this blog. My very first blog.
The blog anniversary turned out to be quite a milestone for me. When I started, I didn’t know what this would look like, if anyone would even want to read my musings and opinions and funny (ridiculous?) stories. But you did. And it has been amazing. Every comment about how I made someone laugh, encouraged them, made them feel supported along their own path, has been the drive to keep me going. They have been the breadcrumbs I needed to keep me moving down a path. A path I enjoy being on but can’t see where exactly it is going.
In the year since I started in earnest to finish my book, I hit a few special peaks. I finished the manuscript for my book in January. I also secured a monthly online column with Northwest Horse Source. God willing, I should also have a horse related article coming out in a national publication in the next few months. When it happens, I promise to share, but right now I’m afraid to jinx it and so don’t want to say what magazine or what the article is about. I also found an affordable editor to help me take my novel to the next level.
Looking back at these things keeps me putting one foot in front of the other. I still sometimes shake my head at myself, at the idea of writing a book. It takes guts to have a BIG dream. You have got to ignore the people who might be so insecure themselves that they question why you should dream and do such a thing. And even more important, you MUST ignore that little troll inside your own head that makes you question what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and even if you can do it. No matter what it is. I have to work at having guts even a year after starting this blog. Even after finishing my manuscript and finding an editor. I think ignoring the troll will be a lifetime activity.
One of the things that helps to keep me going are the breadcrumbs I seem to get, pointing me further down the path. Before the blog, before the finished manuscript, there were awkward conversations of admitting my dream to close friends. One close friend told me of a weekend writing workshop in my area. From that workshop I ended up going to a writing conference in Redmond, Oregon for Women Writing the West, last fall. That workshop set me up with enough energy and direction to get the manuscript down on paper.
I sent in my manuscript to an editor this spring. After receiving my marked-up manuscript back from the editor this summer, I sank into a pit of self-loathing and despair. (Ten points if you know what movie the pit of despair is from). A trip to Portland at the beginning of October, and a generous friend waiting around while I disappeared into Powell’s bookstore, reminded me why I had started. So I picked up the marked up copy of my story and started making the changes. Self-pity be damned.
Many people seem to be keeping tabs on the process of me writing a book. I was chatting with a physician who I work with and updating him where I am with the book and my plan for the next 6 months. He looked and me and said “Did I ever tell you my sister owns a literary agency in New York City?”
Me in a louder-than-professional voice, “Uh, no you did not! I think that’s something I would remember!”
He pulled up her website and showed me her amazing brick-and-mortar business front just four blocks from Times Square. I leaned over his desk and asked “How could you not have told me this before?” Still in a not especially professional voice. He laughed and said he thought he had. And then he emailed her while I was standing there and asked her about the status of her literary agents.
Now his sister’s agency is more interested in scripts than novels, and also has agents representing performers. However, the news of this connection was a very large, caffeine-infused breadcrumb. Fortunately, or unfortunately, many things in this world still work according to what connections you have and who you know. My physician friend’s sister may not do anything with my manuscript when it’s finished. But she might be able to connect me with someone who would. Such a connection could help me bypass the email query letters to anonymous agents, thereby also skipping the possibility of my manuscript ending up in a mile-high slush pile to languish for months.
I’m telling you all of this for a couple reasons. For one, I thought you might be interested to know how my little (big!) project is progressing. But more broadly, I hope you can take this as something to think about in your own life. That you can see that those breadcrumbs that keep turning up are encouraging you to follow your own path. (Do you have a story that this makes you think: “Yes! That’s exactly what happened to me!” Tell me about it. I love hearing others’ stories) I don’t know what my destination is, but when I see these little positive arrows pointing me forward, I believe they are messages not to quit.
And as for the dog-iversary, I can’t believe it’s been six months since his passing. I no longer wake up looking for his dark figure lying next to the bed. I am hopeful that wherever his spirit is, he can help guide the next puppy into our home and hearts. Preferably one who doesn’t snack on small dogs and pieces of my house. That’s not too much to ask, right?