This part of any writer’s story is usually the bit you don’t get to hear. It’s like the happily ever after, where the couple dances off into the sunset to presumably live a rich and fulfilling life together. You never see the disappointments, the arguments over money and babies, the long toil. So many stories tell “how I got published” and end there, with the bouncing baby book.
Well, that was eight years ago.
At first, everything was about the Book. I toured around promoting it. I gave workshops. Most of 2004 was about sending my book out into the world. Along with that, I felt this nagging dread, this nearly panicked sensation that I needed to be doing something more. That I should be writing, which I just…wasn’t.
I think this happens to a lot of authors. You put all this energy and effort into creating the book and then you’re kind of empty afterwards. The well is dry and the ship has sailed. What happens next?
I fiddled with stuff. I started a couple of projects, both narrative nonfiction. But I had no clear direction.
The worst part is, I had opportunities at this time. A couple of agents read my book—or read nice reviews of my book—and contacted me asking what I had for them to read. I sent them the beginnings of the longer works I’d started (you can do that with non-fiction, big no-no with fiction) and they weren’t thrilled. I sent one to Beth, my UNM Press editor. She told me to put it in a drawer for a year because I wasn’t done cooking it. The Silver Sages had disbanded.
I was at a loss.
This is the part where the experts tell you that you need a long-term plan. That if you have a series of goals and milestones, those will carry you through these lull periods. It’s probably good advice. I did not have a real plan, however, other than to become a full-time writer. And, despite the lovely reviews of my book, it was clear that the full-time writing income was not materializing any time soon. I’d been kind of playing things by ear, enjoying the process and seeing what came of it. Truly, I’d been quite fortunate with serendipitous success.
I’d long since traded my early morning writing for a one-day a week session. By this time I was working for an environmental consulting firm that let me put in four ten-hour days, leaving me all day on Fridays to write. But more and more, I frittered my Fridays away, sleeping in and screwing around.
With my project in a drawer, no reaI writing habits, I had hit my second real career crisis. I needed a plan.
I started reassembling my writing habits. Writing one day a week was fine for short pieces like essays, because I could draft an essay in one day. But I was trying to write long. Coming back to a long work once every seven days was simply not working. I couldn’t immerse myself, couldn’t get my mind around the whole story.
I surveyed all the advice out there—paying close attention to what the successful, productive writers do—and started writing every day. It wasn’t easy. I had to carve out the time and viciously defend it, particularly from my own tendency to wander off. I set rules, making myself sit there and write something, anything, not allowing myself to leave my desk for any reason whatsoever until my time was up.
Want to annoy the people in your life? Set this kind of boundary and watch them try to be the exception to the rule. It wasn’t easy, but I knew it was necessary.
One morning I woke up with a story idea. A story that could be a novel and then a series of novels. While rain fell outside, I went to my writing desk and sat for four hours, writing down this lovely, magical, mystical story. It was fiction. More, it was fantasy.
And I loved, loved, loved writing it.
The new story was a gift. It renewed me, opened up new avenues.
And changed the course of my writing life.
Jeffe Kennedy took the crooked road to writing, stopping off at neurobiology, religious studies and environmental consulting before her creative writing began appearing in places like Redbook, Puerto del Sol, Wyoming Wildlife, Under the Sun and Aeon. An erotic novella, Petals and Thorns, came out under her pen name of Jennifer Paris in 2010, heralding yet another branch of her path, into erotica and romantic fantasy fiction. Since then, an erotic short, Feeding the Vampire, and another erotic novella, Sapphire, have hit the shelves. Her contemporary fantasy novel, Rogue’s Pawn, book one in A Covenant of Thorns, will be published in July, 2012. Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and frequently serves as a guinea pig for an acupuncturist-in-training.