I was asked if I would write a post explaining about overcoming obstacles and finding my “Happy Place.”
Let me preface this post with the fact that I’m one of those people who can pick up a book and teach myself almost anything I want to learn. Two major failures in this category have been English and Calculus. These two subjects make it apparent that I’ll have to go back to the basics with the care of a good and patient instructor to make any new headway.
If I never learn how to do calculus before I die, it will be all right. It falls into the category of things I’d like to learn, along with playing the piano. I taught myself about music and can read sheet music; I just can’t keep a beat to save my life. I have to put my hands in my pockets at church in order to keep from falling in with the crowd if they start clapping. I’d rather not advertise to the entire church how challenged I actually am because I have no rhythm.
English, I am probably going to have to figure out a solution to learning. I never dreamed I would become an author!
Let’s start with writing every day. It takes time, that one thing that we all never have enough of. Secondly, my old computer was antiquated to say the least, and the version of Word I had didn’t interface with anything on new machines. Thirdly, why would you expend all this effort and time with no guarantee it will even sell, or that I have any talent at writing whatsoever.
As I started this quest, something strange and unexpected happened.
My biggest hang up at first were my horrid English skills. The ladies of my book club said they could help edit my work as a group in order to help me get started. This was good and bad. Good, because I was forced to start writing more of the story down in order to stay ahead of where they were reading, this got me writing from month to month as we only meet once a month. Bad, because to use this method one book would take three years to get edited–once!
I shelved the book they were helping me with and picked my worst and least developed story to begin writing with the goal of finishing one story. In 2010, I finished the rough draft of “Whisper,” my first book. I’d picked that book because I knew it would always be my first and worst book of all time. The other story can wait until my skill as an author rises to meet the caliber of story it is in order to do it justice. From what I’ve read of authors whose work I admire, that will be a million words published or ten books whichever comes first. They say it takes that long to find your style and niche. I didn’t believe them then, but I do now. Elements of my writing style are just now emerging as I endeavor to write my third and fourth books.
That still left editing! I found a friend of a friend many states away that was retired and used to be an English teacher who agreed to edit my first book for free. While she worked on it, I started and finished the rough draft of my second book, “No Rules Of Engagement.” By December of 2010, I’d written two novels, and was almost done editing the first one. For Christmas my wife bought me a new laptop. Next, I installed Microsoft Office 2010 with the new Word. One by one, I was knocking my way through the obstacles.
I spent a considerable amount of time researching the publishing industry, types of publishing, the terminology, reading what authors had to say about writing, and publishing, learning about writers’ rights, and the plethora of horror stories about authors, agents, and trying to get published. I decided with myself being an unknown quantity, no following, no money to invest, and being impatient, I decided to join the revolution which was just getting under way known as self-publishing. “Whisper” could have been edited better, much better, but ready or not, I self published it for no other reason than to just see if I could.
After publishing “Whisper,” I found a new editor and started making corrections to “No Rules Of Engagement.” It became apparent, very quickly, that the entire book needed to be re-written. That’s the last thing I wanted to do. I’d already been doing nothing but editing since October on my first book. I’m so grateful to my editor for dragging me around the corner toward the light, and that I re-wrote and edited the entire book. It took me until the end of August 2011. The sad part is, I still missed a lot of mistakes, though not through a lack of effort.
The strange thing that happened during the last year was that I’d been worried about burning the candle at both ends. In the evenings, after my two boys went to bed, I’d write or edit from 8:00 p.m. or so for four to five hours almost every night of the week. I worked harder than I’ve ever worked in my life with no end in sight. Instead of my life coming apart at the seams, the opposite happened. I had the best year ever at my day job. I became a better father and husband. My body adjusted to the long hours. I found out that most of the time I was happier than I’d ever been in my life.
I realized the source of this phenomenon was that I was doing what I loved. This made all the difference in the world. Everything else was a means to get back to my writing. The writing, and even the editing, became my passion, my release, a daily mini vacation. It was still work, but I wanted to do it.
You grow up hearing about how God has a special gift for everybody, that we all have a purpose, and I’d found mine. At first I got upset that it had taken me forty-five years to find it. Then I realized that if I’d discovered this at age twenty-one there’s no way I’d be as good as I am now. It took forty-five years of seasoning, wearing different hats, massive amounts of reading, and life experiences to make me who I am now.
Last year at this time I didn’t know if I’d really be able to publish my first book, or if it would be any good. In the last year, I discovered I could do it and I did. I’m a good author and my books are selling more each month with no advertising and very little promotion. I published my second book. I’ve arranged to make both books available in paperback and have actually been asked to sign copies of for family, friends, and fans. I’ll only be as good as my editor. With a great editor, I have the potential to be a great author.
I implore anybody who is reading this, that if you haven’t found your special gift or passion in life, keep searching. I’ll give you a hint: It’ll be something you enjoy doing. Something you’ll do whether you get paid or not. It’ll transform your life. New vistas of opportunities you didn’t even know were there will open before you. There won’t be enough hours in the day to do all you want to do. You’ll jump out of bed in the morning with drive, direction, and purpose to get on with the things you want to do. You’ll be more serene and happier than you can imagine. Success is the journey, not a destination!
There is no obstacle that should keep us from our Happy Place!
Author of “Whisper” and “No Rules Of Engagement”
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I cannot imagine a day without reading in it. Reading for a living–discovering and sharing books with my students and colleagues, writing about books and reading–it’s a reader’s dream. Without question, I am a better teacher because I read. I pass books into my students’ hands and talk with them about what they read. I model what a reading life looks like and show my students how reading enriches my life, and can enrich theirs, too.