Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Insecure Writer's Support Group

The question for this month's group is what's the weirdest thing you've ever googled for writing research?

Lots of murder and what not. How long does it take for blood to congeal. How quickly does a body decompose. Things like that. I'm pretty sure at this point that the FBI just cross references people with crazy google histories with their author websites and then writes them off as a lost cause (also, the FBI isn't getting involved unless your crime is crossing state lines, just sayin).

Actually, I did do a bunch of research on the FBI for one of my books because I decided that I thought the FBI would get involved in a case of a missing person who was potentially abducted by aliens.

Or the Bathrooms at the San Diego Convention center where a scene from a novel was going to take place.

And I did some extensive research on the Ghost Fleet for a scene in my current novel which, to be honest was actually pretty cool.

I guess I haven't really done anything that crazy (at least, not that crazy compared to crime writers!).

Hop on the Link and visit the Ninja Captain. Say hi to the cohosts:  Sadira Stone, Patricia Josephine, Lisa Buie-Collard, Erika Beebe, and C. Lee McKenzie! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Nose to the Grindstone

I don't have an IWSG for you today because I am hard at work. Blogging hasn't been on my radar of late, and I'm trying to figure out if it's a thing I should keep hacking away at or move to fewer posts. We shall see. 

Even though I'm not up for it today, this is blog hop. Sign up here, visit Ninja Captain Alex, and thank our cohosts:  Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Mary Aalgaard, Madeline Mora-Summonte, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Bigger than I thought

I'm working on a big revision right now. It's for a big book. It's not like anything I've ever written. It's so much not like anything I've ever written that I keep putting it off. It scares me. 
What if I completely fail this really beautiful idea?
What if I'm just not as good as I've always thought I was and the real reason I normally write fluff is because I'm scared to learn that I'm not good enough to write anything else? If I don't try, I won't know, right?

These are the the thoughts plaguing me as I tackle this monster, and by monster I mean a three part story that MUST be a three part story, and each part is about 90K, so I can't just smoosh them all together into one really long book. 
And it's full of pain and jealousy and duty and family and revenge and forgiveness, and I never write like this, so I must be screwing this all up. 

I feel like a fool for hoping. I feel like an idiot for trying. And I'm completely convinced that I'm just falling flat on my face, and everyone can see it except me.

Someone very helpfully suggested I send it to a beta. 

I did. I sent it to beta readers in 2017. My betas loved it. They thought it was great, but in 2017, I could see where it needed something more. More depth, more character, more something. It's taken me 2 years to figure out what that something is, and I love it even more, but as I'm standing here trying to implement that SOMETHING, I'm terrified that I can't do it. I'm terrified that I'm just flinging words around in the hopes that something sticks to the wall. 

So that's me, scared that I'm destroying an idea I love and thinking I'll never write another story like this one. Which just means I'm a writer with the kinds of worries a writer has. 

This is an Insecure Writer's Support Group Post. You can visit the Ninja Captain here, and don't forget to say hi to this month's cohosts: Gwen Gardner, Doreen McGettigan, Tyrean Martinson, Chemist Ken, and Cathrina Constantine.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Not Dead Yet

I should have known better. I started a new job and that's when I tend to drop off the radar. Which brings me nicely to my current insecurity. 

Turns out, I don't have particularly productive summers. I mean sure, I queried a lot. I painted a lot. I made a cover for a book that's going to come out soon (more on that another day). And that's when it hit me: I'm so wrapped up in productivity being word count or pages edited, that I completely forget the whole rest of the business part of writing. There is JUST So Much. And while I'm trying to stay positive and keep moving on my WIP, I have to give myself a break because I've done a ton of other work this summer. 

If this were a learn from my fail, that would be: word count isn't the only measure of productivity (nor is productivity the only measure of a life!).

Anyhow, hop on the Blog hop, say hi to the Ninja Captain, and give a shout out to the cohosts: Renee Scattergood, Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Insecure: VACATION STYLE

I'm taking a little bit of a writing vacation. I haven't taken an official one in a long time, but I've carved out some time from my writing schedule (i.e. I will not be hitting the self imposed writing deadlines I set for myself that were, quite frankly, impossible anyways). With luck, I'll be ready to come back to writing for July. I still have ambitious plans for the rest of the year, so it's time to rest up, find some good compression gloves and refocus!

Happy Insecure Writer's Group Day for everyone!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Impostors at every level


The funny thing about the impostor syndrome in writing is that we often forget that it breeds itself and proliferates.

At my day job recently, I was nominated to help our Union (Join the union, pay the dues, unless you aren’t into things like sick leave, 40 hour work weeks, health insurance, vacation). So I have to go to the employer who will surely be bringing a lawyer to the table.

A lawyer.

Why am I intimidated by a lawyer?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. For some reason, lawyers have always had a place in my mind as the pinnacle of modern professionals. They dress nice (I have nice clothes, too). They have a fancy degree (I’ve got one of those, too). And they have confidence (uhmmm…).

To be frank, I have considerably more education than required to be a lawyer (I have more education than is required to be a surgeon), so it’s not their intelligence. So why do I feel like a complete fraud going to talk to them?

Part of it is that I have always viewed myself as the underdog. I have never come into a situation and thought for sure I would win a fight. I didn’t feel adult enough to buy my first home (or my second, to be honest). I feel like most people got off the train when they were younger and started believing in themselves as adults long ago, and I somehow missed the stop—honestly I was probably playing D&D at the time. In fact, I’m sort of terrified that someone will show up with a clip board and say “Rena, you enjoy things too much to be on this Very Serious Panel That Discusses Very Serious Things. Go home, impostor.”

So here I am, a little shocked to find that everyone at every level experiences some impostor syndrome. And for me, my impostor syndrome is tied to me feeling like an outsider. I have never fit in, and I’m not going to start now just because the other side of the table has lawyers.


Don't forget to visit the Link and say thanks to the cohosts: Lee Lowery, Juneta Key, Yvonne Ventresca, and T. Powell Coltrin! 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Not the Only One: IWSG


I grew up in a very small town. I grew up in the kind of small town where everyone was just certain of my path and my destiny.

“Oh, that Rena. She’s going to be an amazing veterinarian when she grows up.”
“Rena you’ll be such a great teacher.”
“You know, Rena, you can make real money raising sheep. If you do your herd right, you’ll be able to go to college in the winter and work lambing on spring break.”
“You need to study hard if you’re going to save the environment.”

Yup, my whole life was planned, signed and delivered by the time I was 11. About then someone asked me what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted to be an astronaut. Reader, I broke hearts with that simple proclamation.

But it’s an old small town and they knew the true path to getting their way, patience, solidarity, and a steadfast denial of all words actually issuing from my lips. I played a pretty convincing part, raising sheep, showing horses, training llamas, you name it, I did it. But I also memorized all the features on the near side of the moon. I studied the stars, I took extra physics classes when I could. I sang in the choir. I was in the band, and drama, and soccer and swim team. I wanted to play football, but that path was closed to me. Small towns can only allow so much.

In school, I read every book in the library with a horse on the binding. When I’d read all of those, someone recommended that I try the ones with the rockets: and I did. And it was amazing! The only problem was, none of those books were about kids like me. Not one. I grew up lonely and never seeing a girl from a small town who got to have a story other than grow up and fall in love. The story was always girl grows up and realizes horses are childish and falls in love with a boy.

First, I desperately didn’t want to think horses were childish (one of my first real jobs was as a horse back riding instructor). I loved horses (and had to sell mine to go to college), and well, let’s just say the guys weren’t exactly throwing themselves to date the girl who ran faster, got better grades, and could literally throw hay bales, so a love story wasn’t exactly going to cut it for me. I was lonely, and my life looked nothing like the books that should have been hand made for me.

So one day, I wrote a different kind of story where a girl rode her horse into outer space to go save the Starship Enterprise. Firstly because everyone should ride a horse to go save the world, and secondly because I’d never seen a girl like me, do anything the world seemed to think important. Surely saving the Enterprise would count as important.

That story was very important to me, and no, no one will ever read it. But it had everything that I loved and it spoke to me. 

Hooked, I wrote another story just for me. This one didn’t use nearly so much Intellectual Property not belonging to me. As with many of my works, I cajoled, bribed, and begged until someone else read it. And that time, that time I heard the timid voice whisper back, “I thought I was the only one.”

I thought I was the only one.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard that whispered back to me by people who were embarrassed by some deep truth so close to their hearts they’d never shared it with anyone until I showed them the scars on mine. People I didn't think I had anything in common with, people who didn't look like me, grew up under totally different circumstances saw something of themselves in my words.

And that’s why I write. I write because even in the world of over sharing social media, I still hear it. People read my stories and confess that they had always felt alone. They’d always thought they were the only one who felt it—the shame, the secret joy, the guilt, the pain, and the pure exhaustion that is life, or just how lonely it is to feel something you shouldn't feel because society tells you that you're supposed to have exactly one emotion (I'm looking at you motherhood).

In short, I write so people will know they are not the only one.



It's Insecure Writer's Support Group, so hop on over to the Link, wave at The Ninja Captain, and say howdy to this month's cohosts:  J.H. Moncrieff, Natalie Aguirre, Patsy Collins, and Chemist Ken!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Avoidance IWSG


I’ve talked before about how the best way to protect yourself from failure is to never try. You are absolutely guaranteed to never experience any rejection if you never put yourself out there for others to see (and all too often, criticize).

Which brings me to today. I have cleaned my work area, swept the floor, answered every email, done the dishes and cooked every breakfast the people in my house are going to eat for the next week. Yeah. All of that.

I’ve spent the whole week thinking about how much writing I was going to get done, but instead I have done LITERALLY every other chore in the house. I’m avoiding it. I’m worldbuilding. I’m plotting, I tell myself, I need time to think. Okay, that might be true, self, but it looks like, from over here in the no word count land, that you are actually doing the thing where you are avoiding writing.


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: I have an idea for a novel, and I LOVE it. As in, I love it so much it might just break my heart. I love the idea so much, I might just never write it because the book it will become, no matter how good, will never feel like the shiny thing in my imagination. If I could have one wish, it would be to be able to make books fell the same way the idea feels in my head. It just doesn’t happen. Well, I should say, It hasn’t happened yet.

Am I the only one, or do you procrastinate putting pen to paper when you have an idea you’re in love with?

Jump on the link, visit the Ninja Captain, and check out this month’s co-hosts: Raimey Gallant,Natalie Aguirre, CV Grehan, and Michelle Wallace!





Hey, did you know my books are up on Amazon? 

Check them out here and here

Monday, January 21, 2019

NEWS!

There’s so much going on right now, I feel like I’m one of the spiny bits in an old school egg beater. Here we go:

The good news: Acne, Asthma, And Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon is available for sale. Yes, you read that right! I got the rights to my book back, and it’s currently for sale on Amazon. I have not pushed it out to other platforms, and it’s not looking like I’m going to anytime soon. Turns out, I don’t have any time to figure out anything else right now (long story), so for the foreseeable future, my book is on Amazon as an ebook. I have some paperbacks left, but it’s a diminishing supply (don’t buy the fifty dollar copy from that crazy person who thinks my book being rare drives up the price). In a few months, I should be uploading to Create Space for those of you who like books you can touch.

More good news: Prom, Magic, And Other Man-Made Disasters will be up soon. How soon, you ask? Sometime this week, ebooks should become available. I’ll post when things are settled out (it takes Amazon some time to link editions, and I’m trying not to lose my reviews, those are hard to come by!).

The BEST NEWS: The sequel to Acne, Asthma, And Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon is coming out! That’s right, it’s really really happening. GROUNDED, NO PHONE, AND OTHER SIGNS YOUR MOM IS A FIRE BREATHING MONSTER is in production!

What does this mean? I won’t have a release date for a while yet, but I’m very excited to share the much anticipated sequel to Acne. If you loved Acne, you’re in for a real treat as the gang is back at it, but now things are bigger, more dangerous, and even more family secrets are unearthed. It’s going to be a wild ride, and I can’t wait to unleash it on the world! 


Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sometimes things go Sideways


If you’ve been to my buy pages recently, you’ll probably notice that they don’t work. My three novels have been taken down by my publisher, Curiosity Quills. The publisher is in the process of reorganizing their business, and we are currently in the process of rights reversion.

So what does this mean for me and my books?

Right now this means you can’t buy my books. (Sorry!) It means I am taking a crash course in self publishing because I have an irrational need to finish things. Acne has a sequel. It has two, possible three, and I want to make sure the whole story gets told. This means drafting, editing, formatting, cover art and marketing plan. This is not minor. On the plus side, the first sequel has already been written, but there’s a lot of production even when a book is 100% ready to go, and it isn’t there yet.

But Rena, you say, What about Acne, Asthma, And Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon? I haven’t bought my copy of that book yet! And I want it!

Yeah, for the books that were already finished, there’s a different problem. There are some paperback copies going out into the world still, but that’s a limited supply. There are no e copies. There were never audio copies.

As of right now, it’s going to be a while before ebooks are available again, and they will be. My plan is to re-release Acne and Prom as soon as I solve the problem of formatting, cover art, and final typo fixes (an issue we had with the previous books).

So I have a lot of work on my plate, and much sooner than I’d planned!

On the plus side, this gives me the opportunity to have more control of the direction these books take. I have loved being a Literary Marauder, but now I get to shred the skies with my own flag—just as soon as I figure out how to rig this spinnaker so it doesn’t flip my ship.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Plans? Maybe just direction? IWSG


It’s a new year.

I don’t really know what happened to last year. It was rough. It was good. Like all years, it was complicated by too many factors to be easily summed up in a single post.

Going forward, I have a lot of thoughts. I’m working on migrating the content of this blog into a new format (I’ll probably still cross post for a while), but as I go back through, expect to see some old posts go dark. Think of it as the pack rat going through and cleaning everything up.

In writing, I’m moving into a new phase of my own growth. I’ve been working on improving my craft, and I feel like that’s gone well. It’s an ongoing process, and with writing, you never “arrive.” Writing is like a knife, constantly requiring honing. I took a break for the whole month of December, and it was very useful to know there was no need to do anything for a whole month. Now I’m cracking my knuckles and looking around at what needs to be done to clean up my writing life. I have a list of projects, and I’m toying with a Shiny New Idea. We’ll see.

To start the year I’m writing a low pressure piece just for the fun of it, and to share it with my friends. I kid you not, it’s a piece that I have no actual intentions of showing to the rest of the world, and I’m really looking forward to the ridiculous purple prose of an elf prince falling madly in love with the wrong person. So good.

I’m taking it easy right now due to other factors, so I’m going to write my very extra pointy eared prince and then reassess the direction of my career.

Do you plan out your writing year? Whenever I try to, it takes a detour at Albuquerque. So no real plan this year. Working on craft, writing something just for me, and we’ll see when we get there.

While you’re procrastinating, jump on the Link and visit the Ninja Captain, Alex. Be sure to check out this month’s cohosts: Patricia Lynne, Lisa Buie-Collard, Kim Lajevardi, and Fundy Blue!



Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Doing Better


I’ve been thinking about my journey lately, and I can’t really complain. I’ve published three books. I have a sequel in the wings (not until at least 2020, alas). Working full time has definitely slowed my process, but even there, I still have no complaints. I’ve put together a book a year since 2009 plus a handful of extras.

I don’t know how others are doing, but things seem to be going cautiously well for me. I feel like that’s a somewhat controversial statement in our current political climate, my home state going through disaster after disaster, and the actual climate, but things are okay. I know it’s crazy to say, but I have finally sorted out something big.

When I first started writing and querying, I would always wonder if my writing was “good enough.” I’d get a rejection and it would say something like “sorry to say, I’m passing at this time,” and I would say to myself, “was it the project or was it the writing? Can someone tell me if it’s the writing or the project, please?”

The funny thing there, is that people did. They did say “your writing is great, but not this project.” Agents and editors said this a lot, but it wasn’t enough. It never passed through my thick skull. I always assumed that the agents were just being nice. When I read reviews of my work, I only ever found resonance in the negative, letting it outweigh the good reviews, even though there were more good reviews by a factor of ten.

The problem for me has always been my own demons, but I feel like I had to go through those things so I could be in this position where I’m writing what I need to write. I’m telling the stories that burn in me, and if I’m not marketable right now, that’s fine. The only thing I can control is the thing I create. Everything else will come, or it won’t. I have no control over editors or agents. I certainly hope I will connect with them through a book, but I can’t control that.

I’ve spent my time focusing on craft. I’ve sought out critiques anywhere I could get them, and bit by bit, I’m starting to understand how much I have sought agents and editors for validation of my writing. I can definitively say, that’s the wrong approach. If my words are finding fertile ground in your heart, I have another gem that’s finally started to sink through my thick skull: if there is a hole in your heart, no amount of accolades that can fill the hole. No amount of external positive things can actually give you self worth.

I know, this got deep fast, but hear me out. I’d been using publishing as a way to fill something inside me that was empty and broken. Publishing couldn’t fill that hole. At first it felt like it did, but as time went on, it became increasingly clear that I was playing a shell game with my heart, skipping from good review to good review like I could tie the sinking ship of my heart to the words of a stranger and that could somehow right the ship of my life. Inevitably, each sank as the feeling of joy wore off, and worse, my ship got bigger and heavier so the next positive thing I needed to keep my head above water had to be bigger than the last. It’s a bad cycle.

The truth is, if you don’t feel like enough without an agent or publishing contract, you certainly won’t feel like enough with it. I’ve talked about this before in other IWSG threads, but it bears repeating. It’s something I still struggle with, even as I move forward. So that’s the big one today. (I’m super excited about my current manuscript! I really love this story. It’ll be interesting to see how this next part unfolds.)



Jump on the link, hop over to the Ninja Captain, Alex, and say hi to this month's co-hosts: J.H. Moncrieff, Tonja Drecker, Patsy Collins, and Chrys Fey!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

An Evolution

The question this month is "How has your creative life evolved since you started writing?" 

This one is really hard. I've been writing novel length works of fiction on and off since I was 12. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I recently crossed a very BIG birthday number milestone, and to be honest, Things Haven't Changed A Lot. 

Big caveat here: I have absolutely changed my writing style, but one thing has always guided me. My first novel was about the book I NEEDED. My most recent book was the book that I NEEDED. And to be fair, most of the books in between have been the book that I HAVE NEEDED. 

But I have strayed from the path. I have tried to chase a trend (it did not end well, no you may not read the result). I have maybe started projects that were not in my best interest but were in the best interest of the market. They failed. Each. And. Every. One. 

This has helped me refine my voice. My failures have, in one way, sort of shown me who I am, and what my wheel house is. It's been... useful, if painful. Rejection is part of the path, but what it does better than anything is show you where and how you're willing to accept rejection. Specifically: when I'm writing to the market and that gets rejected, it's MUCH WORSE. It's worse because I KNOW that I was chasing money not heart. It hurts because I sold myself short. People judged me on my lack luster work, and it was lack luster because my heart wasn't there. The dollar signs were in my eyes.

And now I know better. So that's the real thing that has evolved. I know that if I can't put the full metric force of nature that is My Heart, there is no point in trying to write that project. It will not come alive. Like the life stone of the Deathly Hallows, that project will have a half life, a cursed life. (and I don't have any unicorn blood to feed it!). 

In short, the only thing I have learned is that it's not really worth writing a project unless my heart is in it. Which sounds really cliche, but it's very, VERY true. 

Don't forget to visit the Ninja Captain Alex, and say hi to this month's cohosts:  Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor JQ Rose Ann V. Friend and Elizabeth Seckman!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Feeling like I’ve been here before: IWSG post


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: I’m getting ready to query a new book.

Oh, yeah, that’s come up once or twice on the blog. So many times in fact I have many agents and agencies memorized. I’d be lying if I said I was perfectly confident that this time—THIS TIME!—would be different.

I’ve had dozens of full requests, I get personalized feedback on my query letters. And I have hundreds of rejections. Hundreds. And yet, here I am with another book, making my list, checking it twice, finishing up the draft and making notes for revisions.

It is the definition of insanity to try the same thing and expect a different result, and YET HERE I AM, because this is “the process.” At this point, it’s probably fair to say that I’ve lost faith in the process. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work, it just doesn’t appear to be working for me. It’s like I’ve come to live in a world where there is an invisible line I cannot seem to cross. It starts to feel like that time I agreed to tutor one of the guys in my physics class and after I showed him the mnemonic for memorizing the formulas, he showed me how ALL THE OTHER BOYS WERE CHEATING on the exams. Literally everyone knew this one trick (and it was cheating, to be clear), but for three years they hadn’t told me, the only girl, about this one thing.

Watching other writers find their forever homes for their books feels like that. It feels like there’s a secret club and I’m somehow just not smart enough/good enough/stubborn enough to get there. It feels like there’s a cheat code I don’t know about, but everyone else does.

I’ve tried everything to find that cheat code: Writer’s conferences, workshops, crit groups, professional editors, agent critiques. I put every first page and query up for critique on every writing podcast with a critique show (You’ve almost certainly heard or read one of my queries). I’ve participated in so many query contests and received so much feedback, that I now know what does and does not work for me.

Still, I keep hacking away at the process. I’m polishing my manuscript. I’m crafting my query, and I’m girding my heart against the process, worried that this next attempt will end like all the ones that came before it. All I can do is keeping doing.

At least there is one thing I can say from my experience: I’ve tried everything. I’ve followed every rule. I’ve tried to be the perfect little writer, the perfect representation of what I’ve thought the world wanted of me, and NONE OF THAT worked. I’ve tried being me, and that didn’t work much better, but I enjoyed it more. Maybe the point of this process is to find my voice in the storm? Anyways, I’ll be sending my owls into the night again, and I’ll just be over here practicing deep breaths.

Don’t forget, this is a blog hop! Head on over to Ninja Captain Alex’s blog and jump on the Linky. Be sure to visit the cohosts Dolorah @ Book Lover, Christopher D. Votey,Tanya Miranda, and Chemist Ken!

Friday, September 7, 2018

On Publishing and the Pursuit of Happiness


I missed IWSG this month (whoops), but it was because this post was too important to just whip out on short notice, so here it is (I'll totally post a real Insecure Writer's Support Group next month, I promise).


Trigger warnings: Depression and Suicide

I’ve been thinking about this one for a while now. I know that in the aftermath of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain a lot of people were struck by how such successful people could be struggling with depression and mental health, so it’s time to talk about it.

First, so you all know what you’re getting into, the credentials. I am not psychologist. My SO has a masters in psychology, but today we’re going to be talking almost entirely about my opinions and epiphanies about mental health and how it relates to publishing and/or success. In that vein, I’ve had some pretty big successes. I have also had some pretty impressive failures. I feel like I’m in a pretty good place to talk about my own experiences having finally come to terms with many of them. Grab your blanket and a beer, and gather around. This one ain’t pretty.

I have spent a large part of my writing career (really my whole damn life) with this idea that if I can just get through this part, I’ll achieve success and the hell I have been slogging through will have all been “worth it.” Other variations go something like this: I’ll be happier once I have an agent. Or: I’ll be a real writer when I’m published. Or “Once I sell enough to be marketable, everything will be okay, and I’ll be happy.”

These are all variations of the “I’m not happy now, but if I work hard on this external thing, I will be happy in the future.”

This is a LIE.

The reason this is a lie is because you are uniquely you. As in you are always you. You are the same you after you finish your first draft, after you sign with an agent, after you publish your book. You will always be you. I’m sure there are people who are now very curious as to what I’m talking about because, of course I would be me with a book deal. I would be me with or without a book deal. And for you lucky folks, I’m pleased you graced my post, but I suspect you aren’t my target audience. I’m talking to the people who harbor in their heart the secret desire that “things will be better when.” You lot know who you are. I know because I count myself amongst your ranks. (If this isn’t you, feel free to keep reading. I bet you know someone who has this particular world view, and this might help you understand them.)

Now, it seems like this is pretty simple stuff, but believe you me, in the realm of depression (and, quite frankly, ANY situation where you have feelings that are misaligned with what society tells you), your brain just makes shit up. I’m going to focus mostly on depression because that is the monster I know, though I could talk AT LENGTH about having feelings that are misaligned with societal norms (it’s complicated, so one thing at a time).

The first concept I want to explain about success and why it has nothing to do with happiness: You are 100 percent the same person with or without a book deal. I know this seems really simple. Of course you are the same person, right?

WRONG!

My brain has been telling me for decades that I will FINALLY be happy if I:
1)      Lose weight
2)      Get a book deal
3)      Get an agent
4)      Sell a ton of books
5)      Live in a big fancy house

I’m sure, for those of you who have the benefit of seeking therapy, you can see why there might be a mismatch in what my depression tells me, and the reality of the situation. Let me use a watermelon as an example.

I’m a watermelon. I present a thick green skin to the world, but inside I’m sort of a soft, squishy material that leaks if pressed too hard. I have never been happy with being a watermelon. When I signed my first publishing contract, I sort of expected to do a Sailor Moon transformation sequence and come out the other side a more exciting kind of fruit. Maybe I’d suddenly be an orange, or a banana, or a pear. Turns out, a publishing contract was a little more like a T-shirt and a little less like a Sailor Moon transformation sequence. So there I was, a watermelon with a publishing contract. This did not magically make me happy.

At this point, most people would very rightly realize that they didn’t get the magical transformation sequence because there is none, but for the few, the proud, the suffering from depression, we think that the reason the magical transformation sequence didn’t happen was because the success marker wasn’t big enough. To power a whole transformation, one needed MORE. Okay, so readjust the success marker. Now it’s making the New York Times list.

But when Watermelon me makes the New York Times list (I haven’t mind you, but I have been number 4 on Amazon, which is similar). This should definitely have enough juice in it to power the magical girl transformation.

And once again, it’s like I got a T-shirt (and a very plain one that doesn’t even have writing on it) not a magical girl transformation. Once more I am disappointingly still a watermelon. And again, most people would recognize the flaw in thinking, but when you are in the moment, when you’ve been fed the idea that if you work hard enough anything is possible, one of the things you start to believe is that outside markers of success will transform you into a satisfied, happy, version of yourself.

And the thing that hit me the most about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain was that they were at the literal top of their fields. There are no higher markers of success that they could have achieved. None. Seeing their tragic deaths helped me realize that they may have suffered the same problem I do. There is no magical transformation. That’s not going to happen. I started as a watermelon. I cannot be anything but a watermelon.

It has been a very sobering summer to look around and realize that happiness is not a thing that can come from the outside. If success could make people happy, then highly successful people (like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain) would not commit suicide. I’d always pegged my happiness on my success, and now it is glaringly clear to me, that no amount of success will ever kick off the magical transformation where I mystically become the unicorn I’ve always wanted to be. I’m a watermelon.

As you might imagine, this is deeply personal. I only talk about this because I see so many people who are clearly hoping—PRAYING—for the magical transformation sequence, and it makes me sad. You are you. And no amount of success will change what and who you are.

Now, this isn’t to say there aren’t benefits to success (paychecks, etc.), but the biggest problem I see most people have is struggling with the fact that you are EXACTLY the same person you were before. In short, everyone says it, but it is all too true: success will not make you happy. There is work that needs to be done on you as a person, and no one can do it but you. No amount of success will ever be enough. To paraphrase the immortal words of John Candy in Cool Runnings “If you aren’t enough without it, you will never feel like enough with it.”

I know. Simple, right?

Don’t confuse simple with easy.

If you need someone to trade words with, you can reach me at renarocford (at) gmail dot com (I’m slow to respond, so please be patient). Don’t forget, there are people who want and need you in this world, and the Suicide Prevention hotline number for the US is: 1-800-273-8255.