If you follow me on Facebook, you may know that I have spent the weekend in central Oregon for a writing conference for Women Writing the West.
Last night, as I laid in bed trying to unwind, I watched Soul Surfer. The movie is based on real life Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm in a shark attack and continued to surf. In the movie she gets pretty beat up in a surfing competition after the loss of her arm. I completely understand if you are about to navigate away from this page because of whatever Hallmark Channel movie-esque quote you think is coming next. But please, just hang with me. She’s feeling terrible that she failed and doesn’t understand why people are cheering her on. Her father reminds her that it’s because she tried.
Today I found out some depressing news on the book world. I learned that, on average, an author with a small publisher sells approximately 1000 books. Not per month. Not per year. Total. There are 4500 new titles being published daily. Remember how I said that life is always willing to offer you a humbling lesson? This is it. If you write a story, if you finish it, you’d be lucky to get it into the hands of 1000 people.
Obviously publishing a book, having a best seller, then quitting your job to go on a book tour and forevermore be a well-paid author is as Cinderella of a story as you can get. But I was at least hoping to get to the ball and be seen by more than just 1000 people. I told the story. I want as many people as possible to experience it.
Earlier in the conference I met a woman about my age with rockin’ purple cat-eye glasses and employed in New York City (!) as an agent. I approached her, with some trepidation, and asked if she would meet with me. She happened to have the afternoon open. I got 45 minutes of her undivided, honest and witty time. Like my meeting with the publisher earlier in the day, I was advised that I need to finish the story. The process with the agent (purple cat-eye glasses) involves a few more steps than working directly with a publisher. If, after I finish the book, she likes it, then she would find an editor who likes the story and agrees to take it on. I’m sure there are a few other steps which escape me now.
The point is I was left with hope.
I could finish this story and it could be the biggest pile of rotten garbage you’ve ever seen on the printed page. BUT, the point is that I will have finished it. And if cat-eye glasses doesn’t like it, or even if she likes it but no editor thinks it has potential, then I will publish it via other means.
The point is that I am trying. I really have no idea where this road is going. I never really thought I’d get this story finished. Certainly I never thought I’d be pursing publishing. At this point, it no longer matters. The joy should be in trying. If you wait until you’re perfect at something, until the timing is just right, until you have that one thing that eludes you, you may never make the leap. And if you never make the leap, you’ll definitely never have a shot at getting to the other side. Whatever the other side holds for you.
I met so many inspirational women here this weekend. So many bright people with unique stories and perspectives on life, I wanted to share some of that floating positivity. I know life sucks some days. And there is plenty of reason not to read the news (just read my blog instead, it’s happier), but there are things to be thankful for. And I know there are things that you secretly wish you could do, but are too shy to name that desire, please just take a step to trying. You won’t believe how many people will tell you they envy you for trying and believe in you.
I can’t promise you won’t fail. But I can say that the feeling of accomplishment is worth the risk.
PS: I may have to post fewer times per week. Because really, I should be working on the story right now, not posting on the blog!