It’s easy to imagine that life for multi-published authors is one big party – if only that were the case. Writing isn’t just about climbing Mt. Everest. Sometimes it can be like climbing a whole range of Mt. Everests. Few careers are so demanding, and even the most successful authors can be plagued by self-doubt. Today Natalie J. Damschroder, aka N.J. Damschroder, shares her story of perseverance.
Last year, when I was invited to be a guest here at RU, I talked about the importance of education as a building block for your career. But there’s a downside to the kind of education I was talking about. The more you know, the more experience you have or the more you learn about other people’s experiences, the more discouraging this business can be.
This spring, I had a moment that brought me the closest to quitting that I’ve ever come. My daughter plays in her high school orchestra, and they had a gala with a silent auction as a fundraiser. I donated my two YA books, retail value $25, and set the minimum bid at $5.
Now, this was as friendly an environment as you can get. Everyone knows and likes my daughter, and my YA pen name is our real last name. A couple of the other kids in the orchestra had read and liked the books. This was a fundraiser, and everyone attending the gala was there to help.
For the adult coloring books, the bidding quickly got up into the mid double digits. Children’s art supplies received an initial bid of $50. The fudge went for way more than that, eventually. But for at least an hour, my books received no bids. NONE. Eventually someone bid, and someone else increased it by $1. The final total was $10, and the winner was a girl I’d talked to at a local YA con a couple of weeks before that, an aspiring writer who didn’t buy any books at the con.
It was a nice result in that I was glad she got the books, but I wondered if it was my “sign.” You know, the one telling me to quit writing, or at the very least, to quit writing YA. I had a hard time not crying as I sat there in the cafeteria, listening to these kids doing what they’re passionate about, as I failed hard with my own passion.
Did I quit? I guess you can tell, since I wrote this post, that I didn’t. LOL Instead, I wrote over 40,000 words that month on five different projects, including the third book in the YA trilogy. That’s kind of been my MO over the past 20+ years. Double down and try harder.
A lot has changed in those two decades. At first, the big obstacle was getting attention from an agent and/or an editor. Then, as getting published got easier because of small publishers, the challenge was getting into bookstores so you had the possibility of sales. Now bookstores are on the verge of extinction, anyone can be published because of self-publishing, and the glutted market means even if you put out a great book, being noticed among the thousands is harder and harder.
I know many people who are considering giving up, and a few who’ve already done it. I keep thinking that I should, too. The “yeah, but…” rationale that always gave me hope is getting crushed. (As in, yeah, but you never know when it’s going to be you, when you’ll hit all the right notes and achieve a new level of success.)
So what’s keeping me going? Despite all the changes in two decades, the same things are preventing me from whipping the towel into the middle of the ring and stomping off in a huff. 🙂
My Support Team
In early days, my commitment to my local and online RWA chapters/writing groups meant I wasn’t going to quit writing. I had an obligation to fulfill with all my volunteer or board duties, and I wasn’t going to invest in those if I wasn’t investing in myself and my books.
I’ve suffered volunteer fatigue for a few years now, so my obligations are far fewer. But the friendships I’ve built keep me writing. I know logically that these are true friends who won’t go away if I’m no longer a romance writer. But they’d change, and I don’t want that to happen. So I keep writing.
Back in January, this football player said in a press conference that he’d read a quote recently that said “I didn’t come this far to only come this far.” I can’t find who originally said it, but it speaks to the weight of my investment. I’ve published 22 books and written more than that, and invested a lot of money and time into my brand. I didn’t do all that to stop now.
I don’t get a lot of fan mail. But every so often, someone contacts me to tell me how much they loved one of my books. A career can’t be built on one or five readers. But each one is important to me, and I don’t want to let them down by never again writing something they might like.
My Favorite Authors
Obviously, they don’t care if I keep writing or not. But whenever I read a book I can’t put down, it galvanizes me to try to make someone else feel that way.
It just won’t let me stop. Even if I go weeks without writing anything new or editing or even promoting (who am I kidding, the promotion never stops! LOL), it’s there. The stories and characters are in my head—in my soul—waiting for me to return to them. And no matter what else is trying to drag me down, this part of me won’t let me give up. Thank goodness!
Have you ever been ready to give up? Did you? What stopped you if you didn’t? And were you glad if you did?
On Wednesday, Ed Gaffney talks about “#AwkwardNotAwkward: Why I Couldn’t Wait to Write a Gay Sex Scene with my Gay Son”
Natalie J. Damschroder is an award-winning author of contemporary and paranormal romance—Love with a Shot of Adrenaline. She sold her first book in 1999, and 2016 sees the publication of her 23rd novel. She grew up in Massachusetts and loves the New England Patriots more than anything. (Except her family. And writing and reading. And popcorn.) When she’s not writing, revising, proofreading, or promoting her work, she works as a freelance editor and proofreader. She and her husband have two daughters, one of whom is also a novelist. (The other one prefers math. Smart kid. Practical.) You can learn more about her and her books at www.nataliedamschroder.com. Or find her on Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads!
From high-rise ledges to charming residential neighborhoods in Washington, DC, a team of superheroes saves people and battles villains…while struggling with bill collectors, day jobs, and complicated love lives.
Empath Daley Charm feels like the weakest member of the city’s superhero team—especially when someone targets them for destruction. Her insecurities also complicate her relationship with team leader Adam Tarantino, especially since she can’t “see” emotions that are about her.
When missions start going dramatically wrong, Adam pulls away even more, knowing his feelings would reveal an exploitable weakness that could mean the end of the team. As they struggle to discover who’s sabotaging their missions, Daley must confront her own self-worth and faith in her abilities. Does she step away to protect her friends, or stand with them and risk someone getting hurt…or worse?
Buy now from Amazon.
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