Friday, March 21, 2008

Each time I want to quit...

It's Friday and our work has off. And I've been running amok, as usual.

Recently I took on a new project at work, one dear to my heart, but one that requires extra work. If it succeeds, it means I'll have accomplished a dream, something I've wanted for a very long time for the women I've met over 15 years of working with the poor. Not bad for extra work.

But it's a bad time for me to do this. My next historical is due in four months. I have tons of research to do because part of the book will be set in a new area of Egypt.

And today, the day off, I spent... not doing what my coworkers did... partying and hanging at the beach, but running amok. I am leaving Monday at 4:45 a.m. for the airport and a week away for the day job. This means more than just packing. It means meeting with the pet sitter to ensure the dogs will be walked at lunch when I'm gone, getting stuff for the trip, etc.

So today I did laundry. Paid bills DH forgot to pay b/c he's been working so hard this week (It was ok because he made dinner AND cleaned up last night). Today was cleaning up a bit b/c today is FIL's birthday and we're taking him to dinner, going to the grocery, bringing flowers to a friend whose birthday is tomorrow, calling to change a hair appointment (was on hold for 15 minutes, really!) and other stuff.

I did spend one lovely hour at the beach. Going to the beach in the middle of the season down here in S. Florida is like Times Square on New Year's Eve. It's crowded and fast. But I needed a beach day. So I took the Alpha Smart, my chair and drove and yay! Found a parking spot that wasn't 10 miles away.

I sat and looked at the sand and the rugged surf, and I wrote notes on the WIP. I did not make my needed goal of writing 4,000 words. Just made notes on where the later scenes will happen.

An hour later, I realized I had stuff to do. I picked up the chair and started to leave and got into a conversation with an absolutely lovely couple from England. We talked for about 10 minutes. They were wonderful. They said they figured I was an author when they saw me writing.

I told them I hadn't been to the beach in 5 months. Eventually I told them I also work FT for the day job.

They looked at me in pure amazement. "You work in addition to being an author?"

Me: "Yup. That's what I haven't been to the beach in 5 months!"

This year I am struggling. Really struggling. After writing 3 books last year and working FT, I am burnt out. Totally.

RT is next month, and my birthday. RT for me is not a vacation. It's my special time with readers and booksellers and my publisher(s). When I attend a convention, I want to make sure that any reader who wanted to meet with me, can. It's THEIR time.

Same reason why I stayed and stayed until the end at RWA...even though I hadn't any books to sign, due to a glitch. If one single reader wanted to meet me, I wanted to be there for them.

But RT, though it's fun and frantic and crazy and I'll enjoy seeing everyone, is not a vacation. It's busy and crazy. And DH won't be there.

I have a book out in May I have no time to promote. I'm leaving Monday for another work trip to an area I've never been to before and have no idea if the place where we will stay will be like last time, where I wondered if I'd be electrocuted while taking a hot shower.

And I realized this week that I'm really tired. And I will never be able to support myself by writing romance. Fact.

I'm a midlist author. It's just not going to happen.

Like most couples in the US, DH and I work hard. We don't spend a ton of money, but we're fortunate, because we still have our house, and our dogs, and despite the recession, we are doing OK. I'm very very grateful for that.

Like someone I know said, the money I do earn writing romance is for the privilege of being able to exercise the love of my craft. IE: getting published. I write romance, get books published and to get more books published, I have to promote so my sales are okay enough for publishers to buy more books.

But wow, some weeks, like this one, I really, seriously consider quitting.

There are readers like Ana and Aimee from RBL romantica who keep me going. And Gillian, who regularly comments here. And Mary, who wrote me last night. And many others.

Still, I keep thinking maybe I should quit... and then I could spend my free time not worrying about deadlines and book sales, but going to the beach to hang out with friends or actually having a spare moment and not be a hermit.

I think of Sherrilyn Kenyon, whom I personally admire and cheer on, and Christine Feehan, who is a superstar and a real, very nice person, and I realize there are good writers out there for others to read.

If I quit... would it be such a loss?

I know I'm never going to be the writer who makes the big lists, who gets the big contracts, the attention, the awards. I'm never going to be that great. I have friends whom I keep cheering on and hoping they will make the "big times."

Me? I'm thankful to get published, but I know it can never be a FT occupation for me.

And when I think about traveling next week, and returning to the hotel too weary to write, it makes me, again, think about quitting romance writing.

And then today I get a letter. Like someone is telling me something different.

I drove to the post office to drop off the (late) bills, and checked the PO Box. And I sat in my car reading this letter. It's from a woman who does stuff that is dear to my heart. She works with special needs adults, her home is open to teens who really need just a place to hang out and a good adult to talk to, and she tries to help when she can, to make the world a better place.

Yeah, I know that sounds corny, but hell, people who TRY mean a lot to me. You do what you can when you can, and you'd be surprised at how that effort adds up. Whatever you can when you can.

She just read The Cobra and the Concubine and loved it. Loved. It. She wrote only to tell me "thank you." She stayed up late reading it.

a thank you letter from a reader. Wow. She wrote, "Thank you, Bonnie. For a few days, you've given me another world."

So again, here I go. I've thought about quitting. Really considered it. But that letter, it was sincere, from the heart. And I realized... I don't want to let people like this down.

So thanks, Victoria from NC. You just handed a very weary author who wondered if the struggle is worth it, a reason to keep going. I will never reach superstar status, make enough money to support myself, but as long as there are readers like you who take time from their hectic lives to write a note and let me know what I'm doing with romance writing does matter to you, I'll keep going.

I may not be the Energizer Bunny, but I'll do my damn best. It's all I can do.


Carrie Lofty said...

I'm proud of you.

Signature Vintage said...

It's always wonderful to get recognition for good deeds or a job well done...and I think you deserve it! Believe me, as a single mother, I tell myself that i will never be able to get pubbed by one of the bigger houses, that i should just quit and go back to a minimum wage job where I work only to pay a daycare.

But, it's writers who are published that keep me going, their stories, their insight, their triumphs that inspire me to learn what I can. It's their books that take me to places I could never go in real life and it's those fantasies that make a mundane life livable. So, thank you and don't give up!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Bonnie for writing such
wonderful books. Writers like you are what keeps me buying books.

Gillian Layne said...

Oh, Bonnie! (Hug)

You DO make a huge difference in so many lives, the blog couldn't even hold them all! I adore your work; the Egyptian historicals hold a very special place in my heart but I love your Nocturne, too!

I wish I could wave a magic wand and grant you one month of rest. I do think it's very gracious of you to let the rest of the world know that no, most writers aren't sitting around sipping champagne. I've very much realized that even if I do publish, my day job will be with me for a very long time, simply because of the realities of affordable health insurance. Life! ;)

Wishing you the very best of luck on your trip (and another hug!).

Aimee said...

Since I'm not an author, I can't say I know exactly what your life is like, other than the peeks that you share. I do know that there are dreams I've had in my life, that I let LIFE stand in the way of my achieving. YOU didn't do that, and for that I can't express enough how proud of you I am. I know a few authors that work full-time regular jobs, and run themselves ragged to meet a deadline on TOP of everything else. I don't know where you amazing women get your determination from, but if by my saying "Thank You" I can give a bit more energy, a bit more determination, or reinforce your will to go on, then I say, a hundred million times, THANK YOU!!!!!
Your writing gives me the ability to escape my day to day life, live in another world, share YOUR dream.

That, Bonnie Vanak, is beyond priceless to me.

Kristie (J) said...

Bonnie: I know sometimes we get burned out and question what the hell we are doing - but truly - I hope you get a second wind or get through this tough time because while you may not see it - it would be such a great loss if you didn't write anymore. I've read and loved all your books and I for one am very eagerly waiting for your next ones both The Scorpion and The Seducer and your next book for Nocturne - I loved The Empath.
In so many ways I love mid-list authors more than the big name authors because mid-list authors write for the love of writing. You are such a great addition to the romance writers world and what I really appreciate is your books aren't the run of the mill English historicals. Your books are unique and I do so love them.
I echo what the others have said. Your books are wonderful and they are on my 'special' book shelf - the one that holds my most favourite of all.

Bonnie Vanak said...

Thanks, Carrie. I'm proud of you as well, with your first NY title coming out in December with Kensington. I know how hard you have worked.

Thanks Signature. A friend keeps telling me it's the stories we can tell, and it's true. Don't give up on your dream and I'm glad that you are inspired by writers. Dreams are what make us human and keep us going!

Tammy, thanks so much, I really appreciate it.

Gillian, you're so sweet! You are working hard for your dream and you will get there, and get published. It is a very special time and I can't wait until it's your turn.

Aimee, you are so right. We can't let life stand in the way of our dreams. I'm so glad you enjoy my writing. Thanks for all your encouragement!

Kristie, hon, you are such a cheerleader for romance! You always make me smile. You're so honest and down to earth and you have a great depth and courage for life. Thank you.