Don’t Settle for Silver
I’ve never been comfortable with self-promotion.
In 2015 I somehow mustered the strength to power through that discomfort, and I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise $5,000 to self-publish my first book.
I finished that book, “My Problem is Adam: A Story of Recovery,” back in 2009.
In the 6 years in between, I sporadically submitted query letters to literary agents. One such dalliance went as far as the agent requesting to read my entire manuscript. She worked for the agency that represented John Grisham, so it was exciting to even be considered. She ultimately declined, but she complimented my writing and encouraged me to continue my search for the right agent.
I had some reasonable excuses for not pursuing my writing career more diligently during that period of my life. I was working full time while also earning a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Master’s in Counseling. I wrote page after page worth of research papers about abnormal psychology and various theoretical orientations, but I didn’t write any stories.
After graduating from my Master’s program in the latter half of 2013, I took several months to focus on my writing (and rack up some debt) before searching for a “real job” in mental health or higher education. During those Bohemian months, I adapted my first book into a screenplay and wrote my first complete work of fiction – a horror movie I had dreamed up several years prior.
Both of those completed works have collected digital dust the last 8 years while I have made zero direct attempts at finding representation in the world of film. I did enter a few screenwriting contests, and I had a Black List account for a hot minute. Once again, I received positive feedback that I still appreciate and use as motivation to this day, but I have done nothing with it.
After a few years spent finding my way as a higher education professional, the birth of my nephew inspired me to write a children’s book in 2019. The global unrest of 2020 stoked those flames once again, leading me to author another book for my nephew. For that one I drew heavily from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me” in penning a 30,000-word letter to my sister’s son.
So, here I am with three complete books (one self-published), two finished screenplays, dozens of other ideas, and the specter of time’s inexorable march forward. Instead of fearing that which chases me, I’m terrified of what’s leaving me behind.
I love serving students. I really do. I believe in the transformative power that education holds for individuals, families, communities, and the world. Truly.
But in the Olympics of my career aspirations, I am living with my silver medal.
I am a writer. I am a storyteller. That’s my gold medal.
From the time I wrote my first story about a pre-teen FBI agent, to my early college years as an award-winning newspaper writer that ended with a stint in rehab and a change in career trajectory, to my late 30s where I find myself firmly entrenched as a higher education professional, I have always been a writer at heart. I will be for as long as my faculties remain intact. It is who I am, and it is what I must do.
I read once that writers write because they can’t not write. As syntactically problematic as that sentence might be, the sentiment rings true.
I’ve been hesitant to share this journey with coworkers at my various occupational stops. I haven’t even talked much about it with friends and family. As wrongheaded as I know this is, I’ve been embarrassed to have a dream. I was embarrassed because admitting that my real dream is to be a writer would mean (in my head) that I have failed up to this point. I had no problem writing a book about my mental health issues and drug addiction, but heaven forbid I let anyone in on my dirty little secret about trying to write for a living.
That stops now.
I posted a blog entry here on my website last night.
It was my first entry since 2016, but it’s also the first of many more to come.
Whatever your gold medal is, don’t let these types of self-defeating negative thoughts keep you stuck in silver. Silver’s fine. Silver can be beautiful.
But if you know what your gold is, don’t ever, ever, ever give up on it.
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