The Quick Fix Myth

Hello everyone!

Today's post is sort of between a #writetip and a personal story, so if you're not an aspiring writer, you may find my behind-the-scenes tale of woe/success fun to read anyway. 😁 I find that most of my writing tips land somewhere between tips and my personal experiences. I can't seem to separate the two, which, now that I think about it, is silly to think that I could. This blog starts out with a memory from seven years ago, winds around my mindset while I was struggling to become a "real" (aka, published) author, and then lands with encouragement for those of you running after a dream that's not yet realized.

Thanks for reading, and please be sure to join the chat by commenting below. I know I'm not the first or last person to feel the sting of failure, and worse: the sharp poke of futility. As with all my books, though, this blog ends happily. So take heart.

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The Quick Fix Myth

This graphic is perfectly sized for Pinterest.

 

I opened Facebook this morning and clicked on "memories" and during my meander down memory lane, I found this:

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Note the date: 2011. As I write this, that's 7 years ago friends. 

And just to be clear so we're not confused on the outcome, the book I mentioned?

It wasn't good enough.

Year 2011 me wouldn't receive a positive response from a publisher or agent until the summer of 2012, so I had another 15 months or so to go! In the meantime, I submitted to publishers, received rejections from all of them, and frankly, I remember nearly losing all hope.

I decided I was going to become a published author in the spring of 2009. I remember that moment vividly. I put down the book Twilight and researched the author. By then the movie was out and I'd watched it and then read the books. I was struck by the fact that this woman changed the entire world. Not only for the actors in the films, but for the romance genre across the board (paranormal romance and young adult EXPLODED.) Without her there'd be no E.L. James, another author who drastically changed the landscape of romance, and who, in part, I owe a thank-you to for the success of my debut novel since it just so happened to be about a billionaire.

On Twitter this morning, I spotted this gem from Outlander's Jamie himself, Sam Heughan: 

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In the same way that Stephenie Meyer changed Robert Pattinson's life, and E.L. James changed Jamie Dornan's life, Diana Gabaldon changed Sam's life. How about that for a worldview?

When 2009 me looked at my sales job, the idea of rebuilding my team and trying again to achieve goals that had eluded me for five years sat heavy on my shoulders. I was so burned out by that point that I latched onto the idea of changing the world with words. The idea that I could literally shift the WORLD with something as simple as a book was a heady thought.

I wasn't motivated by the attention or world domination, but I loved the idea of being an influencer. The idea of inspiring others who were also glaring down their noses at their flatlining sales jobs. On a personal note, I began wondering why I would ever get yet another unfulfilling job when I could be living my life's passion.

It didn't happen all at once. And it didn't happen fast.

Where dreams of the heart are concerned--where business-building is concerned, there is no quick fix. We believe there is, though. I'm as guilty as the next person of thinking that way. It's not that I mind hard work, but it sure would be nice if the rewards came faster.

Two years later, I wrote the Facebook post I started this blog with. I'd wrapped up my direct sales business in February of 2010 and committed to full-time writing, even though I had not one but two part-time jobs so that I could make ends meet while I chased my dream.

Friends, I was on a MISSION.

By late spring of this same year I received a rejection from another publisher, and another. The last one I remember receiving was politely written, not personalized form-letter style email rejection that I read before heading out to a weekend filled with friends and fun and a Pearl Jam concert that was the best ones I've ever seen (and I've seen four). I swallowed my sadness and shook off the feeling of dread for a few days. It was good for me. But when I came home, reality hit hard.

I had no idea that in just one month my life would change drastically.

Before that magical phone call from the agent who offered me representation, I remember a day where I climbed the basement stairs from my downstairs office. My husband was in the kitchen and I must've looked like Depression the Musical, because he promptly asked what was wrong. In a toneless, exhausted voice, after having poured my heart into the words I wrote, I voiced my fears:

"Am I spending hours and hours writing words that no one will ever read?"

Yes, friends. It got bad.

Now, of course we all know this story ends happily, doesn't it? The heroine of our tale, Jessica Lemmon, did indeed accept the offer of representation from the agent who three weeks later had three offers from three different publishers on a book that Jessica was convinced a month prior no one wanted! That book became Tempting the Billionaire, published by Grand Central Publishing which released in January of 2013.

 

So! Here we are, 5 years and twenty books later (and 7 years after that Facebook post), and guess what happened on March 1, 2018?

My first Harlequin book entered the world.

As a multi-published author, guys, I adore my books. I adore my publishers and editors! I'm continually amazed that I'm allowed to make things up for a living and that I get to keep creating these tales. That's not just a cute PR way to cover my butt, I pour my guts into each couple I write and when I remember them or revisit them in books, they truly feel like people I know.

But the significance of Lone Star Lovers isn't lost on me. Especially the me from 2009 who cupped a dream in her hands as carefully as one would shield a lit match on a windy day. The me who read Harlequin books like crazy. The me who was positive I could write one. The me who studied Harlequin's submission guidelines, started a blog to track my progress, and kept reading and learning. The me who joined the RWA and asked writer friends to beta read all while working jobs that were unfulfilling AND while penning five books.

Five books over two and a half years.

I kept writing during this time for one very simple reason: I knew I wasn't good enough. You're never good when you start out. Not at first. Like any skill, you have to build it, nurture it, let it take shape. As you learn better, you do better. We start at different levels of skill, and honing that into a craft takes practice. So I practiced. I wrote a blog and I wrote books and I worked my schmoe jobs.

I also kept reminding myself of the dream. To change the world. To be a heard voice. I searched out the "L" section at every bookstore I entered and envisioned my book on the shelf. And then one day it happened. That Jessica Lemmon book was on the shelf.

It made every struggling moment that came before worth it.

It's easy to become discouraged while you're in the trenches. Even now, since I'm human, I struggle with the balance of being grateful for what I have and wishing for the more that I want. That's life. There will always be where you are and where you want to be, and a gap in between. Yearning is a part of our DNA.

If you have a dream to change the world that dream's not there by accident. And neither are you.

In my biggest dreams, I'd have a title next to my name. This-or-that Bestseller instead of just "bestseller." I'd have a red-carpet movie moment of my own. A credit on the screen that reads "Based on the novel by Jessica Lemmon." Wanting those things and enjoying where I am aren't mutually exclusive. You have to learn how to do both.

Wherever you are right now matters. Wherever you want to be also matters. And even if I never walk the red carpet or achieve a literary title to tack onto my name, having that dream is a good thing. It keeps me hungry. Makes me try.

And trying always makes us better.

I was texting at length with a good writer friend Katee Robert this morning while writing this blog. During our conversation she said the most profound words and I'm grateful that she's letting me quote her.

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Honor that dream, that voice in your heart. Write what's in there and the world will respond.

Because you've given it no other choice.

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I'd love to hear from you. What dream is lurking in your heart? Have you stepped out to embrace it or has your courage flagged? If you don't have a dream, which one would you have if you could?

xoxo,

Jessica

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