How in the world did I get to this?? One minute, I’m thinking about the letter author Andrew Ward wrote to me back in 1988 after his son and my classmate, Jake Ward, handed over my hand-scrawled vampire story (after promising he wouldn’t show it to anyone, let alone his professional author father…), and how that letter has carried me through tough moments like right now…
And then the next, I’m questioning just what exactly have I done with my life?
Why do I have 21 of my own publications, a few dozen articles written for a news site, two historical documentary series penned in my name, two annual invites back to a couple great conventions as a guest author, a few appearances on podcasts, and yet I have nothing to show for it?
What exactly is success?
I suppose to me it has something to do with accomplishing things as I have, but that’s not all of it, is it? Trees falling in the woods and all that. My following? Minuscule, though no less loved for sticking it out over the years. No awards, no accolades, no #HeatherEHutsell popping up on Google or social media because those avid readers just can’t get enough. Could it be that success has yet another element to it? That being–for once in my life–something just might come easily for me???
I know what isn’t success: having to repeatedly take pay cuts at a new day job whenever I make a move to improve my life. (Side effects including but not limited to: stunted creativity, putting off plans some more. Getting behind even more when it comes to travel, to book signings, to becoming known enough that maybe I don’t have to fight so hard to just have the sort of life I want.) And I don’t make enough with the writing gig to even pay a utility bill. Why am I still doing this?
I do wonder, and often, what flaming hoops I have to jump through to get more frequent invitations–HELL, just have people remember that I even exist, and that they’d rather walk on hot coals than wait another second to fill their shelves with my books, without my doing all the legwork. What triggers old friends to vie for one’s time? “Oh! You’re coming to town! Let’s do dinner!” “Are you coming out this way anytime soon?” “You know, I think about you sometimes. I see your name all over the place!” People who spent so much exhaled oxygen during our schoolhood telling me I should write and publish my stories: Talk is cheap. It pays almost as much as exposure. WHERE ARE YOU NOW??
Having amazing, successful lives, no doubt. (“Heather, who?“)
I am torn between feeling I spent most of my life being invisible so none of this should be any great surprise, and thinking I never tried to come off as anything but unusual–so how could I be so easily forgotten?
Well, Boo. Hoo.
If you’ve gotten this far and don’t follow me on social media (or do and don’t actually read my posts), let me step out from under this rain cloud and regale you with some news:
Book 5 of The Case Files– Darling Orphan: The Case of Lucy Stewart and 366 Tales both came out recently. Nevermore, Inc. should be out no later than Halloween. October Poems should arrive around the same time.
On September 1st, I’ll officially start my first memoir (Horse Legs and Other Lunchbox Mysteries). I’ve already been poking around on it, making notes, writing out passages that may get scrapped, because who really wants to read about some guy that I think about frequently but didn’t have the courtesy to say good-bye to when I skipped town at age 17? Unless you went to school with us, you wouldn’t know who he was. He wouldn’t know who he was in the book if I didn’t include his name. Even so, Faith No More/The Real Thing might spark a vague memory for him. For me… well, obviously it meant enough to make the cut in the prelim entries for the book, and ahead of a few volumes’ worth of stories. If it doesn’t make it into the final book, let it be on record here that our too-short interlude still means the world to me.
Writing this blog post isn’t making me feel any better, but maybe it will help someone…somehow. Isn’t that what I ultimately want to do with writing in general? Change lives? Affirmative. The plan is to get the memoir done and hit the road with it (via invites, paid travel, and couch surfing, because otherwise it could be years more before that happens); go do some talks and book signings and all that. How’s that for lofty? I honestly don’t know how else I will ever achieve the sort of success I’m after. Not in the wildest recesses of my imagination can I come up with another plan.
Someday I will wake up and feel successful because I have become successful in my own right.