by Maria Geraci
Before you begin to snicker, I'm not talking about that happy place (mind out of the gutter, please!), I'm talking about writing from a place of internal happiness.
Happiness is something I've thought about a lot lately. We all strive to be happy. But how many of us can define what it is that makes us happy? Sure, we all want good health, a healthy family, financial security, success. These are the things we've programmed to think we need to make us whole. But those vague definitions aren't enough to show us the way to happiness. How well do you need to feel to be healthy? Is the absence of disease enough? Or is it losing those last elusive twenty pounds? How much money do you need in the bank? How many possessions?
Once upon a time (eleven years ago, to be exact) I began writing on a lark. More an epiphany, to tell the truth. I never really expected to be a multi-published author. I dreamed about it, of course. But it seemed like a fairy tale. Something out of my reach. I was happy writing (as bad as those early stories were), and learning, and going to conferences. And yes, even rejection could make me happy. Because after a while, the rejections became better. And then some of those rejections became requests, and then finally offers, and I thought I had made it. I reached the pinnacle of writing happiness.
Are you shaking your head at my foolishness, yet?
By the time my first book came out I was a hot mess. Happy and hopeful one day. Shattered and depressed the next. I spoke in a language that was almost as foreign to me now as it was back then-- Print runs, sales, reviews. I thought being a published author would make me happy. But it didn't. Not really. Writing my stories is what made me happy. But everything else? It stressed me to the point that I hardly knew myself. And then came another book. And even though my sales were hardly impressive, I was fortunate enough to land a third book deal. The pressure was on me to produce. So I did the best I could and hoped beyond hope that this third book would be my break out novel. I wrote, but I wasn't happy.
And then I waited. No more contracts until my numbers came in. Which probably meant no more contracts from my publisher (since I'd seen my previous sales numbers and they were dismal). My agent and I met and I told her I wanted to write a story in first person. And this time I wasn't going to hide what it was. I didn't care that chick lit was "dead". I had a story I wanted to write and I was determined to write it my way. She told me to go for it. To write the kind of story I wanted to read with no expectation of ever getting it published.
So I did.
I went back to my early writing roots and wrote for the shear joy of writing. I poured my heart and soul in the story and half-way through the writing, my agent called. My publisher wanted to see what I was working on, so I reluctantly sent in the first 60 pages. Reluctantly, because those pages were rough, but I already loved them. I didn't want anyone raining on my parade or discouraging me from finishing that novel. Miraculously, my editor loved it too and offered me a contract. And now that novel A GIRL LIKE YOU is nominated for a RITA, one of romance fiction's highest awards.
This is what I have written on the bulletin board above my writing desk:
If you don't love what you write, then neither will anyone else.
Have I achieved a grand success in my writing? Certainly not from a business stand point. But I now know that I have achieved something more important to me, and that is personal success. I may not be a New York Times best selling author and I may never be. I might never receive six figure contracts or be even be able to live off my writing alone. But it doesn't matter. Because writing makes me happy again.