Love this woman. Love, love, love! She’s funny. She’s brilliant. She’s kind. And I’m so happy for her success. Returning PBK Guest Mom Tracy Brogan is a star, and like many stars, she’s not taking her success for granted.
I do wish for Tracy–and for you, dear readers–dreams to race toward and present-day joys. Thanks, Tracy, for reminding us that both are essential to happiness. And congratulations on your new release!!!
Are we there yet? How often have you heard that whined/moaned/screeched/caterwauled from the backseat of your minivan? It’s so ubiquitous a question, I don’t even need to explain it. Kids are impatient. Whether it’s a 15-day day road trip to Yellowstone, or a 15-minute jaunt to the grocery store, they just want to get there.
These days so do most adults. Our instant gratification culture has programmed us to want to be there. Enjoying the journey is less important than arriving at your destination. For me, that is proving to be true in my writing career as well. I’m not taking time to smell the proverbial roses. I’m not stopping to savor each tiny victory. But perhaps the biggest impediment to me enjoying the process of getting there is that I keep moving the target.
Let’s back up a little bit and start at the beginning. For most of my life I’d been one of those people who said, “I’m going to write a book someday.” I had all the requisite fantasies of becoming an international, bestselling author who frequented Oprah’s talk show, but no plan, and little real hope of that ever happening. Especially considering I’d started dozens of manuscripts and had finished exactly… none. Something always interrupted my grand scheme. A crying baby, a new house, an episode of Friends, you know.
When my youngest daughter started school, I realized it was time to put up or shut up. I had to either finish writing a book, or stop talking about it because my friends had taken to glazing over whenever I brought up the subject. So, step one – draft and polish a completed manuscript. Selling it wasn’t even on my radar at the time. I plugged away while my kids were at school and after they went to bed. The house got cluttered, bills were set aside, but in May of that year, I got’er done! I was so proud of myself!
For about 37 seconds.
Almost immediately, that goal was rendered meaningless. What good was a book, even a finished book, if no one would ever read it? Suddenly, the quest became to sell the book. And that meant getting an agent. I gave myself six months. It took three times as long. During the process, I became quite adept at dealing with rejection. Sometimes I’d deliberately slam my fingers in a drawer just to practice experiencing that sharp agony, although most days there was enough rejection and self-doubt to keep that pain fresh! (I’m kidding about the drawer slamming, of course, but it might have hurt less than some of the query responses.)
I started attending conferences, and entering contests. Those seemed like minor accomplishments, too. I was networking, studying craft, learning that I had so much more to learn, And all the while I kept inching the bar higher. If I finaled in a contest I was pleased, but then I wanted to win. If I got a request for a partial, I wanted the request for the full to come soon after. I’d enjoy each moment for about a moment, and then it was behind me and I needed to leap the next hurdle.
As luck would have it, I managed to final in the holy grail of contests for unpublished writers, The RWA® Golden Heart. Not once, but twice. I was proud to sport that pink GH ribbon and I cherish every aspect of those finals. I am a Starcatcher and a Firebird. But by the second time around, I had an agent and my eye was on the prize of selling.
Once again, I’d moved my target. Rather than bask in the joy of the experience, I was looking to the next thing. In all that time, I never felt certain I was doing enough, or doing it right. I didn’t look back at the people just starting their journey and reminisce about how far I’d come. I only looked forward toward those ahead of me, and I wondered how to get to where THEY were.
It wasn’t jealousy making me ask that. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was respectful admiration for the effort they must have exerted to reach their place. It wasn’t envy. It was awe, and it still is. Surely those cool, fancy RITA girls know they have ARRIVED. Those authors with “best seller” added to their names must be confident in their abilities. They must have a system to their process. They must feel secure that they are loved by the masses and appreciated by their publishers. They must know the secret handshake.
Well, fast forward to today, just four years from when I started. I’m a RITA finalist for Best First Book, a double winner in the Golden Quill, and a finalist in the Book Sellers Best contest. My third book will be released tomorrow and I just signed my second three-book contract with my publisher. Although the NYT and USA Today won’t include my Montlake titles on their lists, both my books have sold enough copies to be considered best sellers. So I should be utterly confident in my abilities, right? I should be certain I know what I’m doing, yes?
Nope. I don’t feel it. Because there are more hurdles. There is the next book to write. Craft to hone. Marketing to master. Are we there yet? I’m starting to realize that as long as I keep moving the end-zone, I’m never going to stop to enjoy right where I am. And that’s a shame because I’m in a very good place. And this makes me wonder how many other writers create this same dilemma. Are you thinking about, and appreciating, all you have accomplished? Because you should! Or are you too busy looking at the road ahead and worrying how to get there? And then there. And then there.
I have a friend who compares this journey to sharks. If they stop swimming, they’ll sink to the bottom and die. I don’t want to sink, but I might need to pull over to the side of the ocean for a while and remember to enjoy this view. Absolutely set goals, and absolutely continue to push forward toward new ones. But don’t forget to think about how far you’ve come.
Past or present, Tracy Brogan loves romance. She writes funny contemporary stories about ordinary people finding extraordinary love, and stirring historical romance full of political intrigue, damsels causing distress, and the occasional man in a kilt.
She is a best-selling author, a 2013 Romance Writers of America® RITA Best First Book Finalist for CRAZY LITTLE THING, and a two-time Golden Heart Finalist in both contemporary and historical romance.
Her next contemporary romance, HOLD ON MY HEART, releases June 25, 2013. If you’d like to see the trailer, here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUB7zan3dCc&feature=youtu.be
Tracy lives in Michigan with her husband, her children and their overly-indulged dogs. Please stop by her website at tracybrogan.com, or visit her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AuthorTracyBrogan