The above line from Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved resonates with me because it describes my own struggle with the clock. Sixo never got time right because he was a slave and his life, let alone his time, didn’t belong to him. I’m a free woman, so what’s my excuse?
Growing up, I thought I’d have plenty of time to achieve the goals I set for myself, to have a life that worked. Mistakenly believing I had oceans of time to frolic in, I kept putting things off. Some days I wake up and shake my head at how I have squandered time. I thought I’d be married with kids at this age, have a fabulous house and money in the bank. I thought I’d be a successful novelist by now with a few best-sellers under her belt.
Not only am I a chronic procrastinator, I’m also delusional.
Speaking of constantly postponing life, I didn’t intend to be on the road this long. Initially, when I planned the cross-country trip that Lola and I would embark on to promote my short story collection Escape from Beckyville, I thought I’d only be gone for the month of August. But that one month stretched to two and then three, and now 108 days later I’m just now finalizing my voyage back to the Golden State. In two weeks, on November 30 to be exact, the Escape from Beckyville book tour will be heading back to Cali.
One of the reasons I put things off for so long was money. Before leaving L.A., I’d crowded 34 cartons of books into the trunk of the Beckyville Bookmobile, and I was convinced that I’d offload them within the first month of being on the road. (See my above comment about being delusional.) But when that dream didn’t materialize, I didn’t have the funds to pay for gas and hotels. I decided to stay put at my mother’s house in Pennsylvania until I could earn the money to take my show back on the road.
The nearly three months that I’ve spent in the town of my childhood has given me a chance to re-evaluate my goals not just for the book tour, but for my life. It has also given me the opportunity to slow down, breathe and smell the chrysanthemums. I’ve had a chance to visit family and friends that I haven’t seen in years. I’ve had a chance to see the leaves change colors, to admire the deep orange, yellow and red foliage that litters the streets of my mother’s neighborhood.
Of course, there are days when I question if walking away from a top-rated talk show to pursue my dreams was worth it. But the only real anxiety I ever have is over money. When I sit down and think about it – as I’m doing now, from my mother’s living room, watching the remaining golden leaves dangling from the tree in her front yard, holding on with a brittle obstinacy – I have been cubicle-free for five months. I’ve done readings at 17 different venues in nine states, and have several upcoming engagements for the return trip. I’ve had the opportunity to speak at a college, to teach creative writing workshops to homeless youth, to give back in ways that I otherwise wouldn’t have if I’d been cooped up in an office. So yeah, it’s been more than worth it.
But just because I’m no longer punching someone else’s clock doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting around all day watching autumn leaves drift to the ground. I have been working. Every day, I contact bloggers and media outlets and radio shows to drum up publicity for Escape from Beckyville. I’ve done a lot of cold calling. Sometimes it pans out; most times it doesn’t. I don’t get all attitudinious like, “Do they know who I am? Don’t they know I used to work for a top-rated talk show?” I humble myself, because I’m no longer in the industry. It’s back to being a civilian, at least for now. I understand that folks are hesitant to take a chance on an indie author until they see a large following or see that other media outlets have picked up on the story.
It takes courage to knock on a door that has seemingly closed, especially if you’re shy like I am. But I keep knocking, because I believe in my book, and I want as many people as possible to hear about these stories, to hear about my journey. The worst they can do is tell me they’re not interested, as most have, but they can’t kill me. I’m still here.
This blog started as a critique of how I never get time right, and it ended as a parable for being persistent. Maybe it’s because the three months that I’ve spent at Lola’s has served as a boot camp, toughening me for the trials that may come when I’m back on the road. This house has not coddled me. Instead, it’s become a brick-and-mortar womb, about to thrust me back into a world that is not welcoming or pretty and is often iron gray.
Such is the life (or should I say rebirth?) of an indie author.
But on one of those steel-gray mornings, I found out the true meaning of persistence. I had woken up late and was mad at myself for starting the morning on CPT. I berated myself, as a boss would light into a tardy employee, and the tardy employee inside vowed to do better next time. I sat at my laptop in my mother’s living room, looking through the list of businesses I’d contacted about publicizing Escape from Beckyville. Several months had passed since I reached out to some of them and had gotten no reply or had received a “maybe” response. I hate feeling like a bugaboo, but I reminded myself that if I didn’t believe in my book, I wouldn’t be making myself vulnerable to rejection. So once again I e-mailed them about my journey and asked if they would be willing to help me spread the word.
It’s been said that no matter how many doors slam in your face, you only need one yes.
Yesterday, I got my yes.
I’ll have some good news to share with you soon. In the meantime, I’ll keep pushing, keep writing, keep dreaming. I’ll try not to keep procrastinating, but it’s too late for that. The perils of being a free woman, I know. I know. I was supposed to push this blog live at 9:00 a.m. EST, and it’s 2:00 p.m. Where does the time go?