Tomorrow Never Comes

Things haven’t changed much in the past year. I’m still not pulling my weight. I’m still not seeing the fruits of my labor. I’m still languishing in what the fuck am I doing ville.

Only, a year ago I believed I could make tutoring into a legit gig. I’d still be part-time, of course, but enough of a part that I’d pay my share of the expenses. I had this idea that maybe I’d write a novel, but I still clung hard to the I will be a successful screenwriter thing.

Okay… my first statement wasn’t true. Things have changed.

I published a book.

I made quarter (but not semi) finals in the Nicholls fellowship after two years of nada (not even one positive review).

But, mostly, I lost sight of where the fuck my life is going. A year ago, I had a clear end point. Now I don’t even know. I don’t feel like a novelist or a screenwriter or even a functional adult. I don’t want to keep delaying having a J-O-B, but I’m terrified of what would happen if I actually looked for a 9-5, legit adult job. I don’t have any skills.

(I actually can’t look for a full-time gig at the moment as I’ll need to help take my mom to chemo treatments in the next few months).

It’s not the job I want. It’s the sense of satisfaction from taking care of myself. I’m tired of relying on other people, but I have no freaking clue how to stop. Writing is the only thing I’m halfway decent at.

And, I know, I know, in both the case of screenwriting and novels it takes time to build a career, but knowing doesn’t help. My mood is a fucking roller coaster, plummeting with every perceived setback. I compare myself to other people, over and over, completely sure that I will never be successful the way I’m doing things. That I will never be successful unless I publish a (shitty) book a month. I obsess over these shitty books’ 4 star ratings. How can such utter crap receive such high praise?

Is it possible I know nothing about writing? Nothing about what people want to read? Is it possible all this I need time to write stuff is just laziness?

And then I convince myself that no one wants a well-written book about actual characters just like no one wants a weird comedy screenplay about dysfunctional women with dysfunctional sex lives.

Of course, with screenwriting, I have some idea of what I need to do to be successful. I don’t need to sell to the audience. I need to sell myself as a writer with ability to the people with writing assignments.

I don’t know how to do that, but I have some ideas.

I know my niche.

I know how to sell myself.

I’ve had zero success, but I have some idea (or I’ve deluded myself into this) of what the people want.

But in bookville, I’m going crazy, worried I’m not selling what the people want. And, well, I knew some people wouldn’t like my book (not everyone likes everything), but I didn’t realize the doubt it would strike into my heart.

With screenplays, I sort of expected that nothing would ever come of them. They are samples at best and files on my computer at worst. But I have screenwriter friends who encourage me, talk to me, commiserate with me.

I didn’t realize it, but I put so much hope into this novel. And it’s not like my hope has been dashed against the rocks. I know that self-publishing is a slow road. I know not to expect too many sales until I have a few books out (even with a few promotions), but I don’t know how to freaking deal with that. I don’t know how to convince my feelings that this is okay. Because they are not happy. They are riddled with doubt. They are agonizing over how hard I worked on this book (six months, at least), and how other people publish first drafts they wrote in a month and sell more, get better reviews, whatever.

And, sure, I know that it doesn’t matter what other people do, but try telling my feelings that.

Because they are convinced I’ll never be successful writing a book every six months, that I’ll never manage to make ‘dem benjamins writing stuff I actually believe in.

That I would be better off peddling crap.

Or at the very least, devoting all my time to straight up erotica.

And the thing is, I know my self-esteem and happiness can’t come from external forces. I know I need to feel comfortable with myself and my life regardless of whether anything I write ever makes a freaking cent.

But I still keep telling myself I’ll feel better after my promos, when my sales improve.

I’ll feel better when I finally have some validation that I’m doing the right thing.

And I will.

But what if that validation never comes?

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3 thoughts on “Tomorrow Never Comes

  1. Your post struck a chord with me as I think I was in your shoes many years ago. So, ready for some insight from a random stranger? Here it comes.

    1. You say, “I don’t have any skills.” And yet, you published a book. Guess what? That takes skill! Ok, maybe less than it used to, but it sounds like you put thought into your writing, so hold your chin up and be proud of the accomplishment.

    2. You say, “Writing is the only thing I’m halfway decent at.” People will pay for this skill. I should know… I’m a copywriter. Look around for small gigs. Do some work for free if you have to, just to get a portfolio started. Copywriting is a great way to hone your craft and make money at the same time. Don’t let experience get in your way. You are a natural writer. Take your book as your resume.

    3. You say, “I don’t feel like a novelist or a screenwriter or even a functional adult.” Remember that deep breath? Yeah. The big 4-0 is creeping up on me and I still don’t feel like a functional adult sometimes. I have to remind myself that I’m not anyone else’s timeline. And there’s no bonus for finishing first!

    4. You say, “But in bookville, I’m going crazy, worried I’m not selling what the people want.” Umm…stop trying to write what others want. Write the book you want to read (“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ~Toni Morrison) Along these lines, Maya Angelous said, ““You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” Pretty insightful women.

    5. You say, “But what if that validation never comes?” It will. You just have to recognize it when it comes. It may never be what you think. As a self-published author, I still itch for the validation of a major publishing house. But, that itch gets weaker and weaker as the years pass and more readers read my books and let me know they like them. That’s become my new sense of validation.

    Lastly, from someone who’s been at the bottom looking up a few times, hang in there. Take a deep breath. It’ll all be ok. Really. Control what you can today. Change what you can today. Do better today what you did poorly yesterday. One day at a time. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I completely agree with the previous commenter. I’m a screenwriter in the midst of a few major changes, so my advice may not be worth much, but one thing I’ve been doing is reevaluating certain aspects of my career goals. If X doesn’t happen, how would I feel? If I try Y instead, maybe that would be better? As writers, we roll with the punches and use it for the benefit of our work, so maybe pour these current feelings into your writing and who knows what kind of story will come of it. Chin up! And good luck!

  3. I’m right there with you. Writing is the only thing I really know how to do well, the only thing I seem able to talk about without tripping over my own tongue. And I have real world problems to consider. I’m in debt. I’m living at home. I’m not independent, and my day job will never let me be really independent.
    Fear. That’s what has gotten in my way. Fear that runs all the way into my bones that I don’t know to get past it. Fear that I’ve gotten it all wrong, that I’m chasing the wrong dream, that I’ve written the wrong story, that I’m going about it the wrong way, that I won’t get anywhere even if I do everything right.
    BUT. If I did, this feeling of WTF-is-going-on-with-my-life wouldn’t be so damn overwhelming. Maybe it’s like that with you, or maybe it’s different. In any case, no matter what happens–never believe in the fear. You might sometimes let it interfere with your hopes and dreams. But never buy into it.

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