I’ve been an indie author now for ten years. I thought it might be fun to take a look in the rearview mirror to remind myself how far I’ve come. Something creatives might not do enough of. It’s hard to be in the thick of creation and feel like you’re not getting anywhere. It’s only when we pause and reflect on where we started to where we are that we can see the progress.
My journey as a writer didn’t start in school as most authors I know did. Writing was not even on my radar as a teenager. Theater was my focus. I was going to be on Broadway, baby! I went to college for it, lived in Chicago for a few years pursuing the dream… and then realized two things:
1. I’m an introvert and city life is FAR too many people for me; thus a major roadblock for any real success as an actor.
2. I missed my family far more than I would have thought.
Fast-forward a few years to being married with two children in diapers. Somewhere in that stretch of time, I lost my creative outlet. Community theater was even off the table as I was nursing two children. My husband, at that time, was still free to go out and do theater, play golf, and have a life. My identity quickly became Mom. And that was it. While I LOVED being a mom and LOVED my kids, I did find myself aching for that itch that could only be scratched when playing pretend on stage. Since that wasn’t realistic at the time, I turned from the stage to the page.
It started as a single moment in a story, then turned into ten pages, which then morphed into my first book, Pulled. A story that took me three years to have the courage to finish writing. Mostly because I kept re-writing the same three chapters over and over and over again. Rookie mistake. I made them all. As a first-time indie author, I didn’t know much about anything, so I made a LOT of mistakes. Including some pretty epic fails at cover design.
That first book was supposed to be a stand-alone book, not the trilogy it became. But one message from a reader gave me a bolt-of-lightning idea, and the trilogy was born on the spot.
When Pulled and Pulled Back were out, I went to my first ever signing out of state. I spent a TON of money on that signing for the table fee, the airport, hotel, food, swag… only to be put in a corner that no readers came to. I think I sold like four books that entire weekend. While I still had fun and made some connections, there is one memory that bubbles to the surface the most. It was the moment I left my own table (that no one was visiting) to look at what the other authors had to offer. Table after table I noticed theirs looked nothing like mine. They had table clothes with their names on them. Banners behind them. Professional book displays, and swag. Their covers looked amazing and the sheer volume of their titles was overwhelming. No wonder the event coordinators stuck me in the corner. I was the puzzle piece that didn’t fit in with the rest.
I felt like a fraud.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but that signing was a fork in the road. One road told me to give up. I’d never be as good as those authors. That I would always be stuck in the dark corner of the author world. That road was a four-lane highway eager for me to merge onto. Or, I could take the other road. Unpaved. Overgrown with weeds. Dark and scary. The choice to continue despite the challenges.
“I took the one less traveled by,” *Robert Frost
Fast forward to today. I have 17 titles out. I have a better sense of branding. When I go to signings now, I feel far more confident in my setup. I’m no longer in the corner but in among the authors I once longed to be beside.
Now I see newer authors looking at my table with the same look I had when I wandered down the aisle. It’s in those humbling moments that I realize, I only have this body of work because I didn’t give up after that first signing. I didn’t let that defeat drag me under. I used it to drive my motivation. To work harder. To have the body of work I can be proud of. Now at signings, I have to decide which books to take with me, and which to leave behind because there are too many to logistically travel with.
The moral of the story? Don’t give up on your dreams. Even when it seems like you are failing at every turn. Take time to look back and see how far you’ve come. Only then can you see that you are still on your journey.