Friday, October 8, 2010
It seems strange than my whole story so far has been about overcoming fear. It took a lot of work to get me started really going on my series and even then it took me the better part of a decade to finish the first book. Once it got going, the others came much more quickly, but I realized today how fear has kept me from moving forward with making this series something bigger. I have spoken to more than 100 book clubs over the last 18 months, and at everyone of them, I speak about the scripture that finally got me over the hump--got me writing regularly until the book was complete.
2 Timothy 1:7"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind."
I am certain that God does not give us fear. It always comes from the Great Inhibitor, who uses fear to keep us from becoming what we are supposed to be--what we are supposed to do. It was 13 years ago that Isaac started talking to me, telling me the stories of love and grace and redemption. I knew I needed to write them down, but I was not a writer. They were beautiful, but inconvenient and I struggled for a long time with fear and uncertainty. I didnt know what I was supposed to do with them.
Looking back usually offers a better perspective. I remember dozens of times when I recieved a tiny glimpse of where I was headed, like the twinkle of a distant star in black sky that offered me some direction and hope. I know my journals of full of recordings of those glimpses, but at the time, dealing with fear and bills and uncertainty, the little hope it offered me served only to keep me slowly trudging forward. I hate fear. I'm sometimes angry at myself for buying into it...for not allowing faith and love to overcome those dark emotions that have inhibited me.
Two years ago, when I was finishing my first book, I remember hearing reports on NPR about the sad state of the publishing market in the economic downturn. At the time, I was also reading a lot of books about finding an agent and all of them said how difficult it was--like climbing Everest in the winter in the middle of a blizzard without a sherpa--or in other words--impossible. I decided I didnt want to waste my time. I had had a dream where people were flipping through my book, watching the self-propelled movie, laughing at the doodles and sketches and loving the story. I decided to self-publish, rather than even try to find an agent.
To date, I have sold 15,000 copies of my books. It is a nice place to be. I think I have broken even and I still have some books left over and I hear from nice people every day who are sharing with me how my books have affected them in positive ways. That is more than I hoped for--way more. There was a time, shortly after I bought my first 1,500 books that I thought I would be giving them away as wedding gifts for the rest of my life. Luckily, it has not been that way. My wife still loves me, and though the new kitchen we sacrificed to buy books instead is still only a dream, that dream is getting closer to becoming a reality. I am so grateful for a wife who puts up with my crazy ideas.
So, after all those hurdles over the last 13 years, you would have thought that I could have overcome my fears, but the sad reality is that I have not. For the last year, I have known I need to write a query letter and begin the long and painful process of dealing with rejections as they pour in one after another. These books are my babies, and no one likes to be told they have an ugly baby, right?
This last week has been disappointing with sales at Costco. I normally would have been loving this experience, as I did last year, regulary selling 60-100 books everytime I did a book signing. It was really quite amazing. I went to Costco with the same hopes this week, but the reality was different. Costco only ordered the third book, claiming they had too much inventory with Christmas to deal with books one and two. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to try to sell people the third book in a series when they haven't read the first two? It is like trying to sell a big wheel to a newlywed couple, trying to convince them they will love having it sometime down the road. Needless to say, it has been a painful week. I have left each of the signings overwhelmed with the idiocy of the situation. It has been humbling, but it has also been incredibly motivating. Leaving early from my signings each day, I came home and began researching agents and working on my query letter. In one week, out of a feeling of despiration, I have accomplished more towards finding an agent than I had in the last year combined.
Tuesday night, after speaking to a book club, I went out to the studio to clear my mind and think while I glazed a bunch of pots. There is magic that happens in that studio. For me, it is a sacred space, the place where I go for answers. I hope you all have a place like that. As I worked, a memory came to me from probably more than two years ago. A strange memory. I was downtown, sitting at the counter at Siegfried's German Delacatessen, and a bus drove by. There, on the side of the bus was the cover of a book being advertised. I remembered the title for some reason, but not the author. I came inside after midnight and googled the book, got on the author's website, and searched the whole thing over for a hint of his agent. I found nothing. This author is a New York Times Best Selling Author, lives in Virginia, has written a bunch of books and is very busy. But on a whim, I emailed him and asked him for his agents name, figuring he would never respond. To my great surprise, he did respond, sending me the name of his agent the next morning. I looked it up the next day and found, from her description, that there may not be a better fit for my book. Finding that gave me a lot of motivation to move. I finished my query letter yesterday, and today, sent out my first two query letters to an agent in California and one in New York. I have no idea what will come of this, but I did something! Ding-dangit, I did something that has scared me stupid for tha past two years. I put my baby out there to be called every possible name, but I did something and boy, does that feel good.
And tonight, before I go to bed, I am finally ready to start my next book. I have no idea how long this one will take to write, and I have no promises to make, but I have a great idea for a story that won't leave me alone and I know I have to move with it. I am excited about it and all that I hope to learn from this next journey. For now though, it feels great to have overcome one more fear. And tomorrow is a new day. I can't wait for it!