Dealing with Discouragement (and other Un-Divalike Behavior)

Nearly a month has passed since I said deuces to the nine-to-five world and zipped into this new dimension as a full-time author. Much has happened, most of it good. I published my debut collection of short stories Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage and sales are coming in every day. My book is now being carried in five stores in Los Angeles. I’m doing a reading later this month at Inspir8tion Studios in Leimert Park, and I’m adding new venues to the route for my 40 Day and 40 Night Escape from Beckyville cross-country tour. My mother, Lola, is in town and has graciously agreed to be my travel companion for this 6,000-plus mile journey. I launched a website, had T-shirts designed and created a video to get the word out about the book. I joined a community of women writers and am meeting interesting people each day who are on similar journeys.

So why do I feel like I’m rocking a red cape with a big L for Loser emblazoned on my chest?

Before I even tendered my resignation notice, I knew I was making a major decision that would not translate to a success-only journey. I felt such an urgency to tell these stories that I was more than willing to get my hustle on every day, and I love hitting the pavement spreading the word about my book and my mission. Such is the life of an indie writer. You’re driven by passion not profit … well, maybe a mixture of both, to keep it real. A sista has to eat.

In spite of these accomplishments, I awoke yesterday with threads of doubt coiled in my stomach. Even as I reviewed the list of daily goals that I had written the previous night, it seemed as if I was play-acting, a little girl sitting at her mother’s desk pretending to do “grown-up” things. The cross-country tour that I had been planning with such gusto exhausted me, seemed too lofty an idea, even silly. What if no one showed up at my readings? Or worse, what if they showed up and laughed at me or thought my work was trite? I felt a pinprick of grief for leaving my job. I slogged through the day trying to reclaim my mojo, but feelings of worthlessness ate at my dysfunctional diva armor. Normally, I rise around 5:45 in the a.m. and try to work at least twelve hours, but I sat down in front of my laptop with a bag of Uncle Eddie’s vegan cookies around 5:00 p.m., feeling defeated, and surfed the net for hours before falling into bed around 9:00, fully clothed.

I don’t know why I felt so discouraged. Yes, I do, but I’m ashamed to admit it. I blame Twitter! The microblogging site is where I spend a large part of my time, networking and name-dropping Beckyville. My Twitter timeline is a microcosm of the competition I’m going to encounter out there in the real world. I worry if I’ll be successful because I’m not snarky enough, I’m not political enough, I’m not controversial enough, and I’m not popular enough. In short, I don’t have enough followers. But I can only be me. I’ve written a collection of short stories about black women in a futuristic Los Angeles, and I can’t be swayed by public opinion (or lack thereof). These are tales of black women with agency in a dysfunctional diva dystopia. We don’t always emerge as victors, but we emerge.

When I awakened this morning, still clad in a wrinkled blouse and skirt, worry no longer enshrouded me. This is not the part where a divine finger taps me on the shoulder to remind me that my life has meaning and purpose and my book will be a best-seller. Or maybe it is. All I know is that I’m on a mission, and I’m determined to fight for what I believe in. In spite of the obstacles that many indie authors face, I’m learning to buck up, to replace the L on my chest with a W for winning.

As I reflect on my journey, I’m reminded of this quote by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho: “Pitiful is the person who is afraid of taking risks. Perhaps this person will never be disappointed or disillusioned; perhaps she won’t suffer the way people do when they have a dream to follow. But when the person looks back, she will hear her heart.”

Every day that I pursue my passion, I’m hearing my heart. As Coelho so rightly notes, there will be suffering. There will be days clouded by discouragement, but I have to shake off the blues and keep it moving because I believe in the beauty of my dreams (thank you, Eleanor Roosevelt.) In spite of what my timeline says, in spite of the folks who add me or follow me or retweet me, I will always be a #writeronamission.

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