By Tracy Kiely
I read Bird by Bird long before I was published. My sister-in-law sent it to me, she said, because it dealt with the struggles that all writers face. It was very kind of her, although I have to think her gift may have been motivated in no small part by my weepy phone calls which usually began with the wail, “I’m never going to get published!!!”
I remember reading the section of professional jealousy and thinking, “Oh, please. I’d kill to have that problem because at least it would mean that I was published!”
When I finally did get published, I floated around on cloud nine for some time. And then I landed. Like everyone else, writers keep setting the bar a little higher after each success. After you’re published, you pray for good reviews. If those come your way, you might pray for strong sales. Then you pray that your editor wants another book. Then come the award announcements. It’s like being back in school and hoping against hope that your name will be called. It didn’t matter for what – it could be for line leader, team captain, or member of the homecoming court – you just wanted it. Not hearing your name called is hard. Hearing your best friend’s name called can be harder.
I am lucky to be able to call several wonderfully successful authors my friends. They are not only gifted writers, but they are nice. All of them have kick-ass sales records. Most of them have been recognized with various awards. A few have gotten calls from movie studios. Would I love to have these things? Hell, yes. Do I begrudge them their success? Hell, no. Each and every one of them deserves what they earned. Their success has nothing to do with my success or lack thereof.
Without sounding too Mary Poppins here, I really think that you have to make the most of your talent, just like you have to make the most of your life. Writing is one part of what I do. I am married to a wonderful guy (today is actually our 20th wedding anniversary). We have three kids, one of whom is going to graduate next year. Getting him ready for college is a big priority; right after getting him to stop bumping into things with his car. We have a daughter about to enter high school. That alone is enough to make me sit down and put my head between my knees. Then we have a little one who is probably going to have his last Christmas as a Believer and will need some Serious Questions Answered. Throw in a dog that thinks he’s human and a cat who is trying to kill me, and the priorities seem to sort themselves out.
I love to write. I love to write mysteries, and I hope I keep improving my skills. But at the end of the day, you need to be happy with the whole picture, not just one aspect of it.
Let me put it another way. Fitzgerald and Hemmingway were two of the most hailed writers of their generation. But both had their demons; demons which plagued them throughout their short lives. One died at the age of forty-four. The other committed suicide at the age of sixty-one. Awards aren’t everything. Enjoy what you have.