The Path Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
Now, as an adult, I think about what kind of writer I could become. This thought reminded me of a blog post by Shannon Hale called Choosing Your Path. She talks about how her husband asked her after her first book sold, "What would you rather have happen--your book becomes a best seller and makes lots of money or is hugely critically acclaimed?" Hale then talks about four examples of writers after they were all published fifteen years and what paths they have taken-- The Award Winner, The Best Seller, The Mid-Lister, and The Life Changer. Examining each one, I can see a bit of satisfaction in all of the descriptions and determined that I cannot chose which path I would want to dream of taking. Hale says of all four paths, "There are no guarantees that any path will bring happiness. Because that's what these are--paths. Not ends. Finally getting your book published isn't the end, or becoming a best seller or winning an award or getting fan mail. They're all just part of the path." My dream has always been about finally stepping onto the published author's path. Once in a while, I feel like just abandoning my dream and then I realize that I cannot give up so easily. Giving up is the guarenteed path to failure.
I had one of those moments just last week. Over the past year, I have been given many challenges with my family, moving into our new home, and losing our beloved Cherrie. I have been working a lot for our local science fiction and fantasy convention and it started to leave me quite overwhelmed. I didn't think I could handle anything at that moment, and I have felt quite disappointed in my progress of writing. All those other things have been getting in the way.
I decided that I need to start a different path where I can decide what limits my abilities and what can expand them. I decided to stand up to my challenges, but overall, my writing is what gives me the most heart in this life. It has been a part of my life for so long and I cannot live without it. Finding the right balance will result in trial and error, but I am going to keep moving forward. I cannot let those burdens get in the way of my dream.
I have been talking to other unpublished authors that are trying to find their way to publication. They have a lot of the same concerns that I have about finding time to write, contemplating classes, searching for agents and publishers, working their day job, and looking for people to edit their work. Through it all, our common goal is that dream of publication. They turn to me for advice, and sometimes all I can give them is encouragement. Maybe that is all we really need sometimes to help reassure ourselves that we aren't crazy in our pursuit.
As a published author, Hale gives the advice that I think I can even take heart from as an unpublished author: "I've come to realize that the only thing useful to me is to make goals that are achievable, like writing a book, rewriting a book, sending it out there. It would be useless for me to pin my hopes of happiness on publication or any honors or celebrity that might happen after publication. I try to enjoy my life now, every moment, living it all, in the present. Work that book, work for the opportunity to share it, but never let that dream become everything. We want to be writers because we want to tell stories. Nothing else really matters."
I graduated from college five years ago, and eight months later, I finished my first real novel. I am still working on it, and will write the sequel to it next. My goal is to always get published, but I think that I am willing to take a little bit more time to learn about myself as a writer. To take the challenges of balancing a work schedule while writing at home, keeping up on my reading, finding people to read my work, taking a class or doing writing exercises, but most of all, write write write.
P.S. Check out these Ten Rules for Writing Fiction by various authors.