I got up early this morning, I was having a bit of a histamine dump and got up early to take a shower at 5:30 and ended up just staying up. But I got to thinking about my life the past few years and about how the world is now, and I began to think about the concept/ability to have a choice. To make a choice.
I realized that when I was with Berkley, I didn’t have a lot of choices. I had to do things their way. I had to be out out out there on as many social media platforms as I could. I had to go to conventions (it wasn’t a firm ‘you MUST’ but a strong “suggestion”, with the understanding that it might as well be a ‘you MUST’). I had to be on their timetable, not mine, and not even a compromise.
And then, in 2014, when I was supposed to go to New Orleans for a convention, and something inside kept saying, “Nope, you need to NOT go”, and then I’d argue back, “I’ve already bought the tickets and booked the hotel and we’ve sent our clothes and swag ahead and…” And still, that deep instinct of ‘this is not good, you need to not go’ kept nagging at me. Until a week before the convention when I simply stood up from sitting in a chair and a massive sharp spike of pain ratcheted through my knee and the world changed.
I couldn’t go to New Orleans. I literally couldn’t walk to the bathroom without wanting to scream. No way could I have made it through the LA airport, or the hotel or anything. I had to stay home. My body ensured that I couldn’t go to New Orleans because I refused to listen to my instincts. I’m sure of it. Unfortunately, I’m still paying for that knee pain today. But as I was looking back this morning, I realized that I felt I had no choice.
I didn’t have many choices back then. When you write for a big traditional publisher, you don’t get a choice on most everything. You revise the way they want you to. You write the books you’re given a contract for and you don’t get to tell them what they’re going to buy. You add sex scenes if they want sex scenes. You change relationships between characters if they decide they think it will sell better. You go to conferences–on your own dime for the vast majority of authors, including a lot of bestselling authors–if they want you to go.
You write 1, or 2, or 3, books a year depending on what they decide they want. If there’s a DNC (do not compete) clause in your contract, like there was mine, you can’t write for another publisher at the same time. If the contract contains a word count (like mine did), you either pad it up if the book runs naturally shorter, or pare it down if it runs longer (or, in my case, watch the font size in the print books shrink if you run over the allotted word count). You don’t get any say over the price, the cover (almost always–I did have a little input but I didn’t get a final say), where the company sells it.
If the publication date is firm, you get it in on time unless you’re under a life-threatening illness. And if they send you copyedits while you’re on a tight deadline with another book and they say, “We are giving you 3 days to turn these around because they fell through the cracks here, sorry about that”…you get the copyedits done in three days even if it means pulling all nighters and making yourself sick.
IOW: you do NOT get many choices in your work. And I think…now that I look back at it, that my body and spirit had enough and when my instincts were screaming “Don’t go!”…well…my body made it so that I couldn’t go. That knee pain bothers me to this day. I wish I had just taken a stand with myself and said, “Nope. I’m not going. So what if I all the money I spent on airfare? And if I disappoint some people, well, I’m sorry but that’s just going to have to be the way it goes.”
I wish I had listened to the alarm bells. Why wasn’t I supposed to go? I have no idea. But I’m convinced that if I had, something bad would have happened. And it had to be something pretty damned bad for my body to shut me down that hard.
So now I’m sitting here, looking at my life, thinking…”take control of the choices you can now make.” I now have the choice over what I write, and when I write it. I have the choice to avoid overloading myself with work so that I have to pull all nighters. So make that choice. I have the choice to eat healthy for my body. So make that choice, Yasmine. I have the choice to take a day off if I really need it. Make that choice. Self, I’m saying, don’t let myself ever get to the point again. Don’t put my body in a position where it needs to throw me under a bus in order to prevent me from falling out of the plane–metaphorically speaking.
What kind of choices do you actually have control over that you’re ignoring? Are there any little alarm bells screaming in your ear that you really need to pay attention to? It might be time to sit and listen, to take stock and make some adjustments.
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