A while back, I came across a picture of Wendy Corsi Staub posing with stacks of all the novels she has had published (seriously, she makes ME look like a slacker.) So, I had one of my co-workers take this picture of me in my office yesterday:
I have to say, I'd taken a picture of a stack of all my books before, but it wasn't until I posed with
the darned things that I was rather taken aback.
Seriously, that is a shitload of books--and I think some are missing. I know some mass market paperbacks I wrote under another name aren't there. (Love, Bourbon Street
, for example, isn't there.) Some of the translations aren't there, either.
I was thirty-eight years old when I sold my first piece of fiction; a short story to an erotic anthology called Men for All Seasons
. Three days later I sold my second short story, to Men
magazine, and a few months later I signed my first book contract.
Getting such a late start always gave me kind of a sense of urgency; the subconscious realization that I'd wasted many years not pursuing my writing seriously, and a further, more insidious fear also lurked in my subconscious: a fear that it might all go away at any minute, that people wouldn't read my stories and/or books, and that publishers and editors wouldn't want my work anymore. So, it was always, for me, about working, refining and stream-lining my writing process, as well as trying to keep up with my imagination and striking while the iron was hot, as it were. When I was first getting started, I was told by any number of people that I should never publish more than one book in a year; that if I did, I'd be competing with myself and you just can't do that. I've always written at least two books a year, if not more, and that doesn't take into consideration the anthologies I edited, the short stories I wrote, and so on. The last few years have frankly been insane, and there have been times when I've worried about burning out.
It is really hard work, and I've been working really really hard for a long, long time.
A few months ago I almost crashed and burned. I was in the middle of writing yet another pseudonymous novel, and one morning as I stared at the computer screen and the blinking cursor, all I could think was meh, I don't want to do this anymore.
I looked into my future, and saw deadlines yawning for numerous books I'd agreed to write, and it all seemed hopeless and pointless. I got up and walked away from my computer, sat down in my easy chair with my coffee and wondered, quite frankly, about how difficult it would be to cancel the contracts and walk away from it all.
Fortunately, I also realized, as the depression slowly started to fade (and thank GOD for all the writer friends I have, who understand and were able to talk me through this dark period) and I started working again.
I did finish that book, and I did turn it in late. The result made the next one late, and the dominoes started falling. But I also have to let go of the stress that missing deadlines creates in me. I had to face realities that I didn't want to face; primarily that I am older. I don't have the energy levels that I used to have, and I need to take care of myself physically and emotionally.
I'd been so busy for so long that I didn't have the time to stop and evaluate my writing, my career, and where I want to go--something I used
to do every time I finished a novel and turned it in. I hadn't done that in years.
Looking at the picture, of me and my published works, I realized that even if I never write another book, if I am never published ever again, I am
an author. No one can take that away from me, the books were written and published. Some were nominated for awards, others won awards, and some just came and went like a thief in the night--but those books have my name on the spine and that will never go away.
But I need to slow down. My imagination hasn't slowed at all--I get ideas for stories and novels all the time, every day. My notebooks are filled with notes and titles and character descriptions; I may never get the chance to write every idea I have--but I'm not going to worry about that anymore. That's just how it is. I was never going to be able to write all those stories--no one possibly could. Maybe if I had eight hours a day to sit at my computer and focus, if i could physically write for eight hours a day (I've never been able to do more than four at most regularly), I doubt even then I'd be able to write all the books and stories I want to.
The key is to decide which are the ones that I really want to tell, and tell those.
And with that, back to the spice mines.