As I type this, I’m propped up in bed surrounded by a half-eaten bag of strawberry lozenges, a nebulizer and a wastebasket full of snot rags. Not exactly the best environment to spark creativity. But I’m not looking to score any sympathy points for the fever, cold or whatever bug has wracked my body for the past two days. This time spent in bed sipping lemon-laced hot toddies and reading self-help manuals has allowed me to ponder where I’ve been on the Escape from Beckyville book tour and where I want to go.
My renewed desire isn’t just the byproduct of illness and the reflection that comes with recuperation. I was surfing the net a few days ago when I should have been resting up and was saddened to learn about the passing of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. As I was reading about his legacy and the vibrant life the tech innovator created for himself, I was struck by the following quote from his friend and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak: “People sometimes have goals in life. Steve Jobs exceeded every goal he ever set for himself.”
The “sometimes have goals” part of Wozniak’s sentiment was a gut check for me. It speaks to a cavalier, almost lazy way of living. Guilty as charged. For most of my adult life, it seems that I’ve been floundering in my creative endeavors. I’m a big-picture type of woman. I have these lofty ideas of what I want to do with my life, and can even see the end goal, but I often falter in the day-by-dayness of bringing those dreams to fruition. Then when I don’t see results, I let fear and doubt suffocate my hopes.
When I moved to Los Angeles twelve years ago, I had one goal in mind: to become a screenwriter. While living in Baltimore, I’d written about fifty pages of a script entitled “The Hasbeen Who Never Was.” It’s the story of a reporter who falls in love with a drugged-out R&B crooner who’s trying to resurrect his career, only to later learn that the man she helped re-catapult to fame is a lip syncher.
Banal storylines aside, I knew that I wanted to make movies, so I took what I thought were the necessary steps to make that happen. I enrolled in screenwriting classes, entered script competitions, joined an organization for black screenwriters, networked at every industry party I was invited to, making sure to keep several copies of my script – by then, a new project entitled “Bless the Mic” – in the back seat of my car. I discovered an inner hustle that both shocked and pleased me. “Bless the Mic” was optioned three times, and I even had a few rising stars attached to the project. But when the funding fell through, and the talent drifted away to other projects and the option expired, my enthusiasm perished as well.
I don’t want my failed career as a screenwriter to translate into a failed stint as an author.
I knew the minute I decided to make a living with my hands, I was entering dangerous territory. Even though childlike faith has always infused my journey as a writer, I’m not naïve about how hard it is to succeed in this industry. Books need lots of friends. I know that writers who travel the traditional route to publishing – who have the agents, who have the backing of a mainstream publisher – still have to hustle to survive and remain relevant in an ultra competitive marketplace. As an indie author, I have to work twice as hard. Not a complaint; just an observation. But I also know that when I set out on this oddball odyssey, I didn’t have an end goal in mind. Everything was happening so fast – from quitting my job, to publishing Escape from Beckyville, to producing a video trailer, to buying a van, to making arrangements to read at bookstores across the country – that I didn’t have time to sit back, breathe and determine what I would do at the journey’s end.
As of this writing, I’ve been on the road for two months and a week. I’m currently staying at my mother Lola’s house in Pennsylvania and restructuring my return trip west. Had I a little more foresight and planning, I would have packed fall clothes. Although one route this book tour has taken me is deeply into the red, my state-hopping escapades have not been in vain. Escape from Beckyville is currently being sold in twelve stores across the nation, and I’m in talks to have it placed in several more. I’ve done thirteen readings in nine cities, and I was recently invited to be a featured author at The AfroFuturist Affair: A Charity & Costume Ball. I’ve been interviewed on WYLD 98.5 FM in New Orleans, the “Voices” radio program for the New Mexico Office of African-American Affairs, Shaw University’s “Traces of Faces and Places” program (twice) and was featured in a recent edition of The Carolinian newspaper. I’m proud of these accomplishments, but success will continue to be sporadic unless I hone in on what I want to do with laser-like precision and gusto. As several articles about Steve Jobs have mentioned, the iGuru lived with simplicity and focus. Focused purpose is key.
Now that my health is returning, so is the desire to rekindle my original zeal for spreading the word about Escape from Beckyville. But this time, I’m doing it with goals in mind. I’m sharing the following six-month goals with readers of the blog for several reasons. One, to keep myself motivated and accountable with a written reminder of where I want to be by the end of the tour and two, to be an inspiration to any indie author who may be reading or anyone who has ever stepped out on faith in the pursuit of a dream. I want this adventure to be a collaborative effort with friends and supporters so we can all celebrate as each objective is crossed off the list. At least that’s what my fever-baked brain hopes.
Feel free to share your goals with me as well, and let’s keep this dream train rolling!
My Six Month Goals for EFB
1. To sell 2,000 books by April 1, 2012.
2. To donate 10 percent of the proceeds from the book tour to a charity for children.
3. To have EFB sold in at least 50 bookstores across the nation and abroad.
4. To do a tour of at least twelve colleges and universities.
5. To expand one of the stories from the EFB collection into a novel.
6. To be written up in at least one major magazine.
7. Write a new screenplay with a speculative fiction slant.
8. To take Lola on a fabulous all-expenses paid vacation to Sydney, Australia!