When doing interviews the one question I've always been sure of was “how do you measure your success” or something along those lines. And I think I am probably famous for saying, "I’m successful because I do what enjoy, and I do it when and where I want to."
Let me take a moment to tell you all now. I lied. Not about how I measure my success. That’s still my yard stick. But it wasn’t really true in those earlier blogs. It's getting closer to the truth today, but it's still not really really really true. Let me expound. I had a mini breakdown as an author recently. And at this point most people would be all sobby and crying “I'm not proud of it.” BS. I'm proud of it. Because in my mind it was a serious growth spurt.
See, my little ready made speech is actually my aspiration, not my reality. I was kind of taunting the writers that have gone before me, and baiting those who are in the trenches with me now. I see so many authors struggling. Not to find their voices or any of that. But to find their voice in New York or Mainstream or whereever it is that pays you in advance and guarantees your books are not only on the shelves of chains like Boarders and Barns and Noble, but get big fancy displays right in front of the doors and windows of said places. There are so many artists out there who lose themselves. Lose their voice in the rat race to be numbered on a list in the newspapers and magazines that are famous for numbering stuff like that. I didn't want to be one of those authors. I mean, if New York came knocking, you know I wouldn’t slam the door in their faces. But I didn’t want to be the author who was continuously churning out page after page of something that in my own mind amounted to drivel, searching vainly to catch the eye of a suitor who had no intentions of courting me.
But here is where I screwed up. I fell in lust. Not simply with writing but with writers. With some real deal movers and shakers. People who are changing the game. People who’ve been in the game so long they are the game. I got swept up in the whirlwind of change. And I liked it. Here I am, barely recognizable and no where near a household name. And seasoned pros where calling me. Emailing me. Asking me to collaborate with them. Some of them because they are genuine and true. People who mentor and teach and love. Some of them, like true predators, seeking the opportunity to strike at another camp or pad their own portfolio by stealing and lying.
I got caught up in a web--a lot of it my own weaving. I lost track of my measuring stick. Got bogged down in the drama that is indie publishing. Started accepting more projects that is even fathomable for a seasoned pro in New York, let alone a hobby writer who just loves to spin a good yarn. It's like a secret society. THE QUILLS: BLOOD IN INK OUT.
It started to affect my personal life. I slowly let it manifest itself into my home, my work, my marriage. Faces that I’d never met took precedent over real life friends and family. The cycle was maddening. I wondered if Lindsay or Brittany or Paris were feeling like I did. You’re hobnobbing and elbow-rubbing with the best in the business. So much so you haven’t produced anything that actually warrants you being there. You being offered opportunities of a lifetime so fast you can’t possible decided which to accept and which to decline. So you say yes to everything. And then its time to pay the piper. Your dog is shaggy and has missed three vet appointments, your answering machine is so full it stopped working, your friends have had babies and you don’t even know their names much less how old the kids are, and your husband knows more about each author than you can even remember. And you look down at the list of projects that you started and there are hundreds. None of them things that fit the “I write what i want, when i want how i want mantra”. And if by an off chance it does you don’t have time to get to it because now you have to finish the 20 or thirty on the list above it.
I got caught up, y’all. Its the dirty truth. I lost sight of what I wanted as an author. Some people were telling me how much potential I had but I had come to fear the praise. What if I wasn't that good? What if these folks were just blowing smoke? And Lord forbid some one criticize something b/c I definitely wasn’t going to finish. HEAVEN HELP if some one loved a concept because then I was scared to keep going. How do I keep the momentum from here?
Then I cracked. Not just as an author but as a person. The two worlds had collided for so long, the line blurred so much that I just lost it. “I QUIT!” I’d quit a couple of times before and everyone knew I didn't mean it. Every time I quit, I actually took on two or three more projects. Never finished a one. In my mind folks didn’t listen when you said no. So you say yes; you just don’t deliver. Makes you a liar and unreliable, but it's easier than confrontation. But this time I quit. I didn't quit writing. I love writing. But I quit the life style I'd created for myself. I quit the addiction. I quit the ego. I quit the hype. I limit the time I socialize and build up the “reputation” that is Drea Riley. I focus on being Drea. I got re-infatuated with me, the person, not me the author.
Some one told me “You are really coming into your own as an author. We’ve been waiting on the next thing from you.” I wanted to cry. It meant everything. Coming into my own that is. Being recognized for me, my style, my work. And doing it in my own way. In my own time. Really meaning the words when I say. “I’m not chasing fame or New York. I write what I want, when I want, and how I want.” And relishing, not gloating, but truly savoring the sweet freedom and truth in those words.