***This post turned out to be much longer than intended. Kudos to anyone who manages to read through it all***
I have quit nearly everything I’ve started. Back in the day when I was just a shorty with grandma glasses, I picked up a viola and played it for years. I kid you not, I thought I was the absolute shiznit. My very supportive mother bought me music books and a stand and a case, a tuner and new rosin every time I needed it. She went to all my concerts and took pictures with me flourishing my bow and curtsying in my concert attire. For four years, I thought I was going to be the next *insert famous violist here.*
Middle school brought a harsh reality. I immediately signed up for orchestra as one of my classes, my inflated ego ensuring that I would move up to Viola chair on in no time. Oh, naive twelve-year-old Cassie Mae. Not only did the first day pop that big head of mine, it drained it from all confidence and faith I ever had in myself. The teacher gave us all a test to see where we were in terms of music theory. What in the world does fortissimo mean? I thought as I read over the first question. Needless to say, I bombed the entire thing. Worse? The teacher then gave us a music sheet and recorded us individually. When I heard the playback I felt as if I was hearing the psycho shower screeches, only slightly off key.
I crawled my way through the year, watching other classmates improve their talent while no matter how hard I practiced, I just couldn’t get it right. After receiving a final grade of B- (which was appalling! ;)) I dropped the class and decided to go out for something else the next year.
I stuck my hand in theater, and after a fantastic response to the monologue that I’d written myself and performed pretty flawlessly, my confidence slowly started to build once again. Middle school awkward years were hard enough, especially for a heavy set person like myself. But onstage I got so many laughs, and coming off stage I received so many compliments that I thought I’d finally found my passion for something. This is what I’ll do with my life. I’ll win Oscars and be on TV!
But success didn’t follow me into high school. The theater class I’d become so acquainted with all went off to different electives and I was suddenly in a class that had an exuberant amount of talent. My confidence died, and stage fright ruined all the comedy I’d been able to pull off before. Boys I liked were watching and girls who were thinner and far more beautiful were so much better at portraying the lead roles. I shrank into the background, and by the end of the year, the teacher didn’t even know my name.
As I gazed over the electives for the next year, I figured I would put all my studies first so my senior year would be more fun and less scrambling. Junior year brought homework, study groups, and yes, I became a mathlete since math was my absolute favorite subject. I scored in the top ten percent of my class, and I started tutoring other students. I did this for years, watching them get it and turn their grades around. I felt that sense of accomplishment by proxy, and I loved it.
Then there was one student the first year after I graduated. She was a good friend and I knew she was smart, but she lacked focus. I spent months with her on the subject (pre-algebra, which was my favorite), struggling to get her to pay attention enough to click with the material. After she brought home a failing grade for the third quarter, her parents had a talk with me. Being young and panicked about this never happening to me, I quit on the spot. I quit on her. It’s one of the biggest regrets I have. And I never tutored again.
The next few years I didn’t try anything. Life was happening, marriage, babies, and I read books and cleaned the house during the “down times” of young motherhood. After my second was born and we’d finally been able to move from a small apartment to a decent first home, I’d felt that I’d accomplished everything I wanted to become in life. After all, being a mother was the only thing I really felt I wanted to do, especially since I lacked any real talent at anything else.
But boredom was starting to eat at me. With little interaction with other adults, I often found my mind wandering off into little scenes and worlds that I hadn’t read about yet. One very uneventful day, I took out my computer and decided to see how fast I could type. I was a keyboarding nerd, and I loved to race with my husband to see how many wpm we could do. Problem was that I was already so comfortable in my couch and there was nothing to type from. So I just made something up.
That something became the first chapter I ever wrote. Then the first book. I couldn’t believe I’d written something with a plot and characters that were only in my head. This was a miracle, and it must be Twilight fame material because I’d finished a book! Who finishes a book, right? 😉
Of course when I found out it was trash and remembered why math was my favorite subject, not creative writing, I took to the internet to research on how to write a book. I studied the craft, learned the rules, I read like a madwoman, and I taught myself. Trust me, I did not have the talent to write. I may have had the imagination, but not the execution.
Books became trial and error. The first two books didn’t get picked up by an agent, so I wrote a third. When that one got a request, I cried happy tears for about an hour. Visions of books on shelves with my name on them formed in my brain. Book tours and signings and interviews on Ellen, I envisioned them all. (Even acted some of them out.) I was on cloud nine.
But of course, that cloud quickly dissolved when I received my first rejection on a full manuscript. Then a second. Then R&Rs rolled in (revise and resubmit), and I did those. I worked my little butt off to get this book to an agent.
Long story short, it took a long time and a lot of studying and work to publish a book. And that… was the easy part.
My first book published was a bestseller. I sold thousands upon thousands of copies (and I can tell you that because my first book was a self published title ;)). I couldn’t believe the response I got, the fan mail (I got fan mail!), and the wonderful reviews that spoke of touching people’s hearts, people I’d never heard of or met. It was the most exhilarating experience, and I must admit, at times, I wish I could go back and appreciate it more.
My subsequent books all sold fairly well. Inspiration was an all time high and I was putting out more and more books because I really felt people wanted to read them. I thought of quitting only once or twice, but never truly in a serious way, because you bet your bottom I was at my computer typing within the hour.
Then came 2015.
A very good author friend of mine pledged that this would be our year to shine (she pledges this every year ;)) but this year, I believed her. I never had before; I’d always been satisfied with the mediocrity of my “fame status.” It paid the bills, and I was genuinely happy. But this year, a book was set to come out, and as my favorite book I’d ever written, I was so positive that it would send my mediocrity into “well-known” or even the quite unattainable “USA Bestseller” status.
It wasn’t set to release for a while, so I had time on my hands (a lot of it) to envision the Ellen interviews and the book signings again ;). Come June, my husband and I made the bold decision to move from our not-so-great neighborhood to one with a much better school for the kids. The move destroyed my word count and productivity, not to mention our bank account. Depression and stress sunk in, and it became harder and harder to put words on the page, but I still managed to do something.
What held me together was the hope that this book would put me on top. I couldn’t have asked for more positive reviews, the promotions and marketing were all set, the cover was exactly the tone of the read. Come release day, I was sure that this would be the answer to all my problems. Surely releasing my favorite book would take me out of my depression.
You know how I said I’m a quitter? If you’ve read up until now (I give you props if you have) you’ll notice a pattern. It’s only when I think I’m worthy of what I’ve accomplished that I hit a humbling road block. And at the first sign of failure, I run, because I believe that my talent was a sham. That I must be that unremarkable person who needs to give up.
I don’t want to be that person anymore, but I feel the urge to quit creeping up on me. I want to shove it away, and I’m unsure how. Pulling up a book only sends me spiraling off into wondering what the point is, and the disappointing release has only sent me spiraling farther.
The only comfort I find (besides the chocolate cake in my fridge) is in the support I have from the dedicated readers I’ve found and become close to. I’m sure they’ve noticed the change in me, and that it’s getting harder and harder for me to remain the positive and upbeat author they once knew. If you’re reading this, wonderful friends, I promise I’m still here somewhere. If I find the strength not to quit, then I’m sure I’ll come back with squishy hugs and lots of Harry Potter memes.
I do want to say this, however. If you’re reading this and feel the same way, please don’t be like me. Don’t quit. Every time I’ve dropped something, I’ve regretted it, and you do not want that. Find the joy in what you’re struggling with and fight through it, and I’ll try to do the same this time around as well 😉
Spell for the day: