My book launched with its attendant fanfare and then quieted down within the expected ninety days. Since then I’ve been in an uncomfortable state of transition. I have a couple of books in messy progress, but no buyers for them and no incentive to finish them this year.
I need an income and miss the comradeship of working with an office team. The job search has begun, though an upcoming trip overseas prevents me from throwing myself into the search 100%. So I’m neither here nor there, not very solvent, and feeling a little guilty.
It’s the worst time to stay at home, though puppy, garden and my library do their best to keep me there. About a month ago I was really, really down. Searching job sites unleashes waves of detailed information. Piles of email notifications arrive daily. Some job descriptions remind me of skills I don't have, while searches on LinkedIn tell me that 885 other people applied for the same job as me. Like many thousands of others, I write persuasive cover letters and keyword-loaded resumes, and they sail off into silence.
Enter MeetUp. One day I found my way to the site and started to pick out Meetup groups to join. Fancy meeting other human beings in a neutral place based on a common interest!
The first group I attended is called Shut Up and Write. What a boon to an isolated writer. I met five people in a coffee shop. We opened our laptops and chatted while we got settled. After fifteen minutes, everyone shut up and wrote for an hour. Two people worked on their novels, another on her thesis, another on game development, and we had a blogger. It was SO helpful to hear keys tapping around the shared large table. Win, win, win.
Then I started taking walks with Vintage Women. We explored new parks and neighborhoods. One day Meetup suggested a job networking group called CSix Connect. As formal and volunteer-driven as a Toastmasters meeting, CSix presents a chance to dress up and network, which pushed me into a better career groove: after the first meeting I cut my hair and ordered fresh business cards. Through the CSix meetings I found a subgroup that studies the sustainability and renewable energy industries in my area, so that I am finally connecting my interests. My current elevator speech: "I can evangelize green technologies!"
The first event with Unstoppable Women of Silicon Valley netted marvelous conversations with women who are on interesting, inspiring career journeys. I came home with ten follow-up action items, feeling excited.
There are four events to prepare for and attend this week, and who knows what might happen from them? It’s a little scary meeting all these new people, but I can see that it's radically increased my mental diet of positive, interesting information, and enlarged my sphere of connections across the
“When artists and professionals regularly accept responsibility for their actions, they shape deep, rich, and evolving pictures of who they are, pictures that permit them to act consistently with emerging notions of their authentic selves.” Intentional Practice & The Art of Finding Natural Audience: A Framework for Artists and Professionals.
Marc Zegans is a poet in Santa Cruz, California who provides creative development advice to artists, musicians, actors, directors, and other creatively minded professionals such as therapists. He wrote a brilliant, very slender e-book a few years ago and put it on Amazon at such a ridiculously low price that it should already rest in the toolbox of every artist and professional.
I recently re-read it and was reminded of how I want to function as an active, authentic, ethical artist and minister, and where my natural audiences might be. Based on my working session with his book and his penetrating questions, I now know exactly how I will overhaul my website and blog in the next few weeks so that they more accurately reflect who I am.
If you want to know more about Marc and the many creatives and professionals he’s helped, trot on over to www.mycreativedevelopment.com.
Meanwhile, here are two more of many, many gems from his book:
“Your natural audience isn’t everyone you can pull into the room; it’s the group of people who have a good reason to be there.”
“Often, we claim that authenticity and integrity demand distance as a rationale to cover our fear of engagement. When such claims are based in fear, there is nothing authentic about them. We are using a ploy to protect ourselves from finding out how good we really are, what we can do when we have resources, and what we will do when we don’t.”
I confess I have been stymied this past week as to what to write. None of my wedding topics seemed right, and I didn’t want to pull out a rerun yet. But for the first time I was blocked. Why? Perhaps it is because I am suffering from a terrible case of In-between-ness.
After thirteen months of steady work, I have completed one thing, The Book (about weddings). And not yet started the next thing. Soon the big push to publicize The Book will commence, but right now it is completely out of my hands. No-one from the publisher has requested anything for days. Copy editors are reviewing the manuscript, and in a conference room somewhere an editor and a sales expert are hashing out the title. So I don’t even know what to call The Book yet.
More shall be revealed. I am sure that one morning I will be called to hit the ground running. In the meantime, cloudless days come and go, my daughter jets back to her school life, and I struggle to reorient myself.
Writers have told me that the best antidote for post-book insanity is to start another book. Now I viscerally understand what they mean, and I agree. Publicity will bend my sanity. Good reviews and bad reviews and NO reviews will whack my ego all out of joint. The only joy I can count on is in the process of working through another book, and perhaps finishing that one, too.
Earlier this week I pulled about thirty resource books from my library and planned a sprawling, intergenerational saga, complete with geology and recipes. This book may yet arise, and I honor that, but something else happened and my path diverted.
It diverted so much from the original that I replaced my sourcebooks back on their shelves.
This new path fills me with excitement, wonder, and terror. So I think I am onto something genuine. But I can’t talk about any of it just yet.
During my travels in South India in 2009, I became acquainted with a goddess who has become perhaps my favorite. Her name is Aditi, and she is very, very old. “Mother of all the gods” is one description. Wikipedia says she is associated with space, and with mystic speech. You can buy little cards with pictures on them of Lakshmi, Durga, Saraswati, even Kali, but there seems to be no traditional portrait of Aditi, the unfettered, the boundless one. She has been symbolized sometimes by a cracked earthenware pot, and sometimes by an empty mirror.
Aditi governs the margins, the space between dark and dawn, the in-between times. I think that now is my fertile, awkward, wordless and uncomfortable Aditi time.
Guess I will go find a cracked vessel and look at it.