The Dream, the only Dream I’ve ever had has finally come true…
This story starts off on two weeks ago today, on a Wednesday morning as I drove down I-95.
Actually no, this story starts off six years ago on a horrible Friday night in February.
Well if we’re going for accuracy, this story dates back all the way to 1988.
When I was a kid I only had one real dream, to be a writer. I also lived in my own fantasy world, in which I would write something and someone else would give me the thumbs up and publish it. Simple and easy. Then I’d write another book, and another and life would go on from there.
Fast forward to when I was 25 and my goal was to be a published author by 30. Five years, plenty of time to write something worth reading.
When I turned 30 I was up to the fourth draft of, “Two Ways to Sunday.” After years of searching, I finally found something worth writing about. Thus, the goal was amended. Now, the goal was to be published by 40 but of course in my head I was thinking 32.
I stopped counting after 75 rejections.
Still, I believed in the book and self-published at the end of 2012 to cheers and plenty of thumbs up from folks whose opinion mattered to me. Sure, their thumbs didn’t belong to a publisher but they still mattered. I wrote something worth reading and now it was time to find the next book.
Three months later, during the worst week of my entire life, I found Lucas James sitting in my guest bedroom/office. So I sat down at my computer and listened to what he had to say. I didn’t know what I was writing, whether this was a short story, the beginning to my next book or some kind of weird journal entry. What I did know was he had my attention and he was making me laugh again.
A year later I was done and now it was time to put what I was now calling, “Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated” out into the world and see what they had to say. Once again I eventually stopped counting rejections—but this time I waited until I received one hundred.
Ahh, but something had changed between “Two Ways to Sunday” and “Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated” and her name is Shannon.
A quick word about my wife. I sometimes call her the sledgehammer of honesty because she is brutal with her honest opinions. If I ask her a question there is no sugarcoating her response. Sometimes I don’t even have to ask, she’ll just flat out say what she’s thinking.
Of course, that’s one of my many reasons why I love her. Because I don’t have to wonder about her. I don’t have to worry that she’s blowing smoke. If it’s good, it’s good. And if it’s not so good, well she’s going to tell me so I can sit down and improve it. A supportive critic, the best type of critic.
A month after we met she finished reading, “Two Ways to Sunday,” and asked if I had written anything else. I had not yet stopped counting rejections so I gave her, “Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated” and warned her that I wasn’t sure if it was any good. She quickly devoured it and told me I was dumb for thinking that and in fact, she liked it much better than, “Two Ways to Sunday.”
Well, now I had the confidence to keep putting it out there, despite the rejections filling up my inbox. Some folks suggested self-publishing, but I didn’t want to once again have to pay to get my book out there. I had too little money and too much pride to do so…
Until Amazon said, “Hey self publish your book through us for free.”
All right, free is a good word and I could send out copies to publishers and bloggers and see if I could build my own audience. Any copies sold would be a bonus; this was more to get someone’s attention. Like a demo album.
During that time I turned 40 and once again amended my goal of being published to 50. I won’t even go into how the idea of 50 is no longer something far far away and scares the shit out of me. We’ll discuss that another time.
Back to the topic on hand…
I don’t remember sending out the email on Wednesday, October 4, 2017, but I can tell you where I was when I received the response:
Driving down I-95 to work on Wednesday morning, March 6, 2019.
Seventeen months had passed since I sent that email. In that time I had finally come to terms with the idea that “Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated” wasn’t meant to be my big book. Instead, the purpose of Lucas James speaking to me was to get me out of a horrible moment in my life. Every book has a purpose; that was his. There was no more hope on the horizon. Time to move forward and focus on my next book of short stories, “Total BS (bedtime stories).”
I remember being stopped in traffic near Exit 17 and just randomly checking my email. The subject line read, “Re: QUERY: Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated” and I opened it up to read “The Book Box Publishing Ltd” had an interest in publishing it. But I had been down this road before. I get an email like that, I get my hopes up and I find out it’s a self-publishing company offering me the opportunity of a lifetime if I pay them $500 or $1000 or $2500.
Traffic started to move and I put my phone down. I’d look into it later but my hopes were low to non-existent.
When I finally was able to email back a couple of hours later I only had one question, “is this a self-publishing situation or a traditional publishing house?”
Twenty minutes later they answered and said this wasn’t to self publish. They wanted to publish my book and I almost started screaming at my desk.
Less than an hour later I was outside the office calling “The Book Box Publishing Ltd” (They’re based in England, confirming my long-held belief that the British are experts on humor) drenched in sweat and feeling nauseous.
No Tom, this isn’t self-publishing.
No Tom, you aren’t paying for any marketing.
No Tom, you aren’t paying for anything.
Yes Tom, we love your book and we want to publish it.
My dream came true.
Four words I was afraid I would never type.
The point of this whole story isn’t to celebrate, although I obviously am. There’s going to be plenty of time (and posts) to talk about the details. But that’s not why I wrote this sprawling manifesto.
The reason why I wrote all of this is to tell you to never give up on your dreams. I have received hundreds of rejections. I’ve been told to focus on something else. I’ve even been told by people I loved it was never going to happen.
But what was I going to do?
Who wants to live with that type of regret when you’re 85?
This is your life and you’re the only who’s going to have to live with the things you did or did not do.
So do what makes you happy.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this whole experience it’s this, the word, “failure” is the biggest bullshit word in the English language. What the fuck is a failure? If I have a dream and it never happens, why would we ever use that label to describe what happened? If you do everything you possibly can and keep going and going and trying and trying and it doesn’t work out it doesn’t mean you failed.
It means you spent a lot of time doing what you love to do.
And how is that a bad thing?
So keep doing what you love to do.
Do it even when there is no hope on the horizon.
Because sometimes hope takes seventeen months to arrive.