Thursday, September 28, 2006

The cost of following our dreams...

Do you ever feel like you are on the edge of something...but that it can either be really glorious or fizzle to something even less inspiring than mediocrity? I feel that way about my writing, that if I'm not careful I'm going to tip in the direction of mediocrity. Equally frightening, if I work really hard...I won't. My friend JoAnn Ross advised me early on that one of the biggest stumbling blocks to my success would be my own fear of it happening.

The fear is not without justification. Following our dreams comes with a cost. That is one of the reasons I have so little tolerance for people who will look at me with envy and say I'm so lucky to have published, so lucky to be doing what I want with my life. I look back at them and wonder when was the last time they sacrificed...truly gave up something good for the hope of something great, or paid the price in pain for the possible pleasure of achievement?

You notice those words - "hope" & "possible" - they are the difference between risk and a sure thing. Following our dreams is rife with risk. I kept writing through years of rejections and stumbling along a rocky path that left my knees bloody and my heart sore by adhering to the principle that I could not guarantee success, but I could guarantee failure - by giving up. Surprisingly, that mantra is every bit as necessary today as it was then. I try with every book to write something better than the last, to find a deep emotional connection with my characters that my readers will mirror.

Before I published, the only thing standing between me and the book of my heart was...well..me. Now there is reader expectation, editorial feedback and my sales history. When I look at which books sold the best, I can't help but thinking those were the books that found the widest band of connection with readers and knowing that to stray too far any one direction puts the relationship with my current readers and my editors at risk.

When I think of all that I have given up to follow the path of being a writer - time with my family, time for my hobbies, time to read, huge investments of money into pursuing my craft, publication and then promotion, friendships even, sleep, sometimes my peace of mind - I cannot cavalierly dismiss these truths. Jayne Ann Krentz once wrote an article on the concept of creation for self rather than others and I realize that I need to reinvest in that principle. That maybe the cost of my dream has driven me away from the risk taking that made *me* love my books.

I started this blog musing about the cost of success as well as the cost of pursuit thereof. Success itself can be frightening. Reaching ten year goals in a matter of two years can be terrifying and a leave a person rushing in a desperate attempt to keep up. When asked what I want five years from now, a small part of me hesitates to give voice to my ongoing dreams - for fear they will come true NOW and I am not ready for them, yet who would turn down a blessing? Not me.

I am so grateful to be where I am with my writing. To have books out that touched readers hearts and hit bestsellers lists. To have more books in the pipeline and know that they are there because I wrote them, but also because my publishers believed in me. In the next book.

But I still feel on the edge of that precipice and I only hope I'm going to fall into the unkown, to adventure, to something grand. :)

The truth is...every dream will come with some cost, if only the initial risk of pursuit. What dreams have you taken a risk to follow, or what dreams still lurk waiting for their moment in the sun?

20 comments:

Brandy said...

I dream of one day having one of my poems published. That is a future dream. A dream I followed was a good education for my children. Unfortunately, even with me working we wouldn't have been able to afford the schools we wanted, so we sacrifice and live on just my husbands salary so that we can give them the education we wanted by homeschooling.

Jennifer Y. said...

I am not much of a risktaker. I guess one dream I followed and took risks doing so is going to college to get my degree. I left home for the first time ever to go to school in a place where I knew no one.

Babe King said...

I have found writing has the potential to suck you in and not let go, but there has to be time for family, friends, hobbies etc, otherwise your heart, where the great stories come from, gets too sick to go on giving. You have achieved an aweful lot in a short time- kudos- but if you are now fearful to pursue that lure of a heart-driven story for fear of other's expectations of you, you need to take a little step back. I have met you once. You are full of joy. Never let anything steal that from you. Your heart is the wellspring of your happiness and your stories. Ultimately, YOU are in control of what you write. If you let it be true, others will fall in love with any new direction it takes you in. You know this. :-)

Kate Davies said...

...and this is just one of the reasons I adore you, Lucy. Thanks so much for giving voice to something others may be hesitant to express, but that needs to be said. This comes at a critical time in my career path, and is a much-needed wake up call.

Thank you!

Minna said...

I wanted to study translating in the University and I did that. Now I dream of the day when my thesis will be done and that one day soon I could translate books.

Cryna said...

I have never been much of a risk taker when I look back on things. But I guess quitting my job in order to be be able to be around and help out my parents for the past couple of years was a risk. Not one I regret but a risk none the less. I hope to one day be able to travel and see some of the online friends that I have made.

Vivi Anna said...

I suppose leaving my husband 7 years ago with a new born babe in tow to seek the life I was truly born for was a risk.

But one I have never regretted.

We are all so much happier now.

Nicole Reising said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! It really hits home.

Cole

Melissa said...

Wow Lucy! Way to make everyone think. I've been feeling really restless about my career (and well, life in general for that matter) lately and ha been considering a change that would be kind of risky. I'd more or less convinced myself it wasn't the best move. Now I may have to reconsider -- am I just afraid of change or is there more than fear driving my decisions? Hmmmm.

PattiF said...

Lucy, you are one of my role models for succeeding in the tough business of getting published.
I'm hard at taking risks and every day it crosses my mind that I suck at writing and will be never be published.
Lucy, you have talent and deserve every success you've had.

Serena said...

Hi Lucy,
Am catching up after a couple of busy weeks, which pale in comparison to yours :)

I find your words very motivating. Wow, three exchange students! Will be hectic but I know you will love it :)
Hope your back is better too. THAT I can identify with.
Hugs from Down Under...

Cherie said...

I think that having children is taking a risk and really changing your life. Before we had our first child, my husband and I had lots of freedom to pursue our interests. Now to do so we really have to juggle our time. It has been a learning example. I would not trade my kids for the world but I have to admit once in awhile, especially when the toddler is being cranky, I do remember those days of freedom wistfully.

Cherie Japp

Lucy Monroe said...

Brandy...how cool. My sister and mom are incredible poets. Me, not so much. I do better with storytelling, but I love the beauty of poetry. If you ever want to publish a poem here or maybe on the Fun Stuff page on my website, just let me know. I think I told you before, but I made the same choice to homeschool my kids. Until 5th & 6th grades when God told me it was time to put them in private school. Didn't have the money, but we did it anyway. Sold my first book two weeks after they started school. Cool, huh?

JenniferY...that is such a risk worth taking. But darn scary. Good for you!

Babe...can I just give you a huge cyber hug?? Next time we meet, it'll be in person.

Kate...it's true. We have to count the cost of all our decisions and the risks we take with them must be acknowledged to keep us mentally healthy. :) And LOVE the new cover, BTW!

Minna...how wonderful! I hope you get a start very soon...if you want a "publishing" credit, I'm always looking for ways to bless my readers in other countries. If you want to translate any one of my three free online reads on my websites, I would be happy for you to do so. While it wouldn't give you monetary compensation, it would give you the beginning of a portfolio.

CanadianFriend...Hon, that is the BEST kind of risk. Putting your family first and loving on them pays off in beautiful ways. I sure hope your travels bring you the PNW sometime, 'cuz I would love to spend some time with you. :) And yes, I do think they'll happen...I truly believe that those who sow generously reap generously. :)

Vivi...happiness is its own reward and such a blessing when it follows a major risk taking like that. You go, hon!!

Cole...sometimes we've got to share at a heart level to really touch each other, yeah?

Oh, Melissa...that's such a hard place to be. I usually err on the side of risk, it's how I'm made. It's panned out more often than not though for me. In fact, I can't think of a major risk I took that didn't eventually reap huge dividends...sometimes after major pain though. That is the cost of a life lived with risk. :)

PattiF...oh, sweetheart! You ignore those doubt devils. You remember that while it may have taken me 13 manuscripts and 9 total years to publish, I then proceeded to sell almost all of my previously written manuscripts. Sometimes, it's just about the timing! And THANKS!

Serena! Hello, dear friend. So good to "see" you. We are loving the exchange students. Lots of work, but really, really worth it. :)

Cherie...I hear you. I think becoming a parent is one of the biggest risks we ever take and I understand those who choose not to...but man, I wouldn't give up one day of pain because the days of pleasure are so beautiful. I love being a mom even if it isn't always sunshine and sweet smelling roses. :)

Brandy said...

Lucy, thanks for the offer, but I'm not sure I'm any good at writing my poetry.
And as for homeschooling, I remembered you saying you homeschooled. I have enjoyed it so far, but Daughter is being a bit difficult this year and making me bang my head on the walls!! Adolescents are pure trouble!

Stacy~ said...

I'm a bit of a risk taker - when I was 19 I moved over 500 miles to a place I'd never been to start a new career, and I've been here ever since. I don't always do what people want or expect of me because I'm happier how I am, and I prefer having a job that matters vs. one that pays more money for more headache.

Deep down I've always wanted to be a writer, but sometimes I don't think it's truly my calling. I love doing author interviews and stuff like that, so maybe that's more my niche. Part of it is my own fault - I don't have the discipline to sit down and tackle this dream, though I have tried it off and on over the years. The rest is that I don't know if I really have a story to tell, only ideas that come to me but no "vision".

Lucy, you are inspiring to me on so many levels - not just for your writing but for your spirit and endless supply of love. I am so glad to know you.

Minna said...

Thanks for the offer! It might take some time, but I will translate one of the online reads in Finnish.

Lucy Monroe said...

Brandy...adolescence is HARD!!! And I bet your poetry rocks. But man is it hard to let other people read you stuff. I know...I really do. :)

Stacy...the thing about the story is that a lot of time it comes as you are writing. The idea is the start and then you find yourself expanding as you give yourself permission to explore the characters as much as you want to. If you ever do decide to write a book, or novella or whatever...I know your heart will shine through and that's a big part of writing a really good book.

Minna...that would be uber cool! So far, I've only had my books translated in Swedish from that part of the world. The good thing about my free online reads is that they are both *very* short. :)

Minna said...

Actually, some of your books have been translated in Finnish. The Swedish Förlaget Harlequin takes care of translations of Harlequin books in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland.

Lucy Monroe said...

Oh, wow...Minna, I had no idea. That is such neat news! Thanks for letting me know! It also makes a Finnish translation on my website that much more of interest to readers, yes?

Danica/Dream said...

Catching up on blogs... I definitely needed this today.

Hugs!