"Unused creativity is not benign.
It clumps inside us, turning into judgment, grief, anger and shame."
~ Brené Brown
This isn’t a post I’m happy to be writing but because of your loyalty and support, I owe you this – and it doubles as a bit of insight into the realities of publishing.
I found out this week that there won’t be a second Field Notes book any time soon. Despite your enthusiasm for the first book, not enough were sold. The first six months of sales were great, but slacked off the last six months. The book didn’t do as well in Ontario or around Nova Scotia as it needed to, and there are books in the warehouse that need to be sold before I can write another one.
That’s the way it goes, my friends. It’s not a big deal, it just means I keep at promoting my book, getting the word out, asking you to keep recommending it to your friends.
It’s not that I want to tell you this – it’s rather embarrassing – but I have to. Because that news is merely the prologue to what I really want to say, and if this isn’t for you, maybe it’s for your daughters and nieces, granddaughters and great-nieces, and your best friend’s daughter:
Try something different.
Before I knew for sure that Field Notes 2 was on the back burner, something inside me shifted over the holidays; I began to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for letting go. And as happens, when you let go of one thing, it opens up space for something else.
As I lay in bed one morning between Christmas and New Year’s, an idea for a novel floated into my half-awake brain. I got up, drank a cup of coffee, made a piece of French toast (my current breakfast obsession), then sat on the couch with a second, then a third cup of coffee, and wrote the idea into a notebook.
For the past 25 years, every time the idea for a novel popped into my head, I’d write it down then put it aside. I believed as long as I had the idea, it would get written.
Wrong. When I think of all the opportunities I may have squandered because I didn’t follow through immediately – a page a day and in one year you’ll have a book – I am filled with regret and anger and shame.
So I’m doing something differently: I’m writing this novel. The character is one I’ve wanted to create for years so this is me taking the advice I give to others: write when the energy is strong, write when the idea is fresh in your mind.
At the end of the day I found out that I won’t be writing Field Notes 2 this year, I had already written the first two thousand words of this novel. (Thank goodness.)
Don’t stop. Whatever you enjoy doing, keep doing it.
Just do it differently.
You’re in the same house but you have other windows out of which to look.
Find a new view. Find new hope.
I’m writing this novel and I’m scared shitless. That’s the truth. Even though I have an email from an editor telling me she loves my writing. Even though I have three completed novels in a plastic tote. Even though I have complete trust in my writing process.
Not knowing if I’ll get another book published scares me so much, I want to throw up, but the best, the only way to keep that anxiety from taking over every cell is to start something new. As long as I’m writing, the excitement I feel about this story is stronger than the fear.
Try something different.
Whatever you do, just don’t give up.
I’ve been in this place before, this letting go of a beloved project, only to have something new fall into place. That something new was the Field Notes book.
I’m taking more of my advice, but instead of writing a page a day, I’m writing a thousand words a day.
Because everything is possible.
“The longer I looked, the more stars I saw, and the more defined the galaxy became. This was the same sky I’d stood under a thousand kilometres ago, but now my only thought was, This sky makes me believe in infinite possibilities. Standing under that sky with a dream in my pocket and an ache in my heart, that thought popped into my head fully formed and clear, without gut-clawing fear, isolation, or self-doubt. Instead, that simple surrender filled me with awe and excitement.”
~ from Field Notes: A City Girl’s Search for Heart and Home in Rural Nova Scotia