A year can change so much.
One year ago, I'd only been a published author for less than a month. I'd seen my debut novel hit Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I spent countless hours staring at the book on the shelf, Voice of Innocence, that had my name on the cover.
A year ago, I didn't call myself an author. I preferred to say, "I'm a writer," or "I like to write," or just smile. Lindsay Detwiler was not synonymous with author, at least in my mind. The word author was reserved for people like Nicholas Sparks or Janet Evanovich or Liane Moriarty. Not small town girls like me.
A year ago, I was terrified when someone said they were reading my book. What if they hate it? What if it's not good enough? Doubt plagued me.
A year has gone by, though. Now, I'm getting ready to release my third book. I've come into my own of sorts, found my small chunk of ground in the author world. Do I have it all figured out?
Hell no. Not even close.
Do I still doubt myself? Do I still suffer from a lack of confidence?
But in the past year, I've grown so much as a writer, a person, and everything in between.
Voice of Innocence was my "Holy S***! This is happening!" book.
Without You was my "Holy S***! I can do this for real!" book.
Then Comes Love is the book I've always wanted to write. It's the one I've always wanted my name on.
As I prepare to share this book with the world, I've been thinking about how much I have changed, about what I've learned. I am the same writer I was, the same girl who wants to show that love stories and women's fiction is powerful. I want to make people laugh and cry in the same book. I want to show the real side of marriage, womanhood, and love.
But I'm different too. A year in the publishing world will do that to you.
Lessons Learned From a Smalltown Author
1. Love the words you write
A year ago, I was so afraid to share my writing with the world. I didn't even tell anyone I'd written a book until it was about to hit shelves.
A year later, and I'm definitely more confident. I don't feel like I'm going to vomit when I think about my book in someone's hands. I've learned to toughen up, to take criticism and grow from it. I've learned that if you write a book every person loves, it's probably not genuine. I've learned like anything in life, some will love you and some will hate you.
Ultimately, you have to write for yourself. I don't write because I want to impress anyone. I simply write the stories that beg to be told. I tell about characters who I come to know and love, if only in my head. Do I hope the world loves them and connects with them? You bet. But if not, it's okay. It's not like I have a choice anyway. These are the stories I've been given, these are the stories I have to tell. I couldn't tell them any other way.
2. Success isn't only measured in sales
People love to ask how many copies I've sold. I get it. We live in a society that thrives on quantifiable measures. We thrive to know how many, how much.
But I've learned not to tie my worth as a writer to my sales. We all would love to be bestsellers, it's true. At the end of the day, though, I've had strangers read my stories. I've had people laugh and cry over characters I invented. I've had people in other countries read my words. How does one measure that? How does one say that doesn't matter?
I've learned to find solace, to find motivation in elements other than just dollar signs. I want to succeed. I work on marketing and do everything I can to keep my sales up. However, I also don't let them define me. The beauty and power of writing is the ability to connect with another human being through words on a page. If each book only impacts one person, I still feel like it was worth it.
3. To help another is the best part of writing
I think the most wonderful part of this past year deals with the connections I've made because of my writing. I've connected with people in my hometown and in other countries I never would have met if it weren't for my writing. From readers to bloggers to other writers, I've come across so many inspiring people. I've found advice, comfort, laughter, and reassurance in so many people. It's been awesome to see my world grow but also to see it shrink, too.
Moreover, the best part of this journey has been helping to inspire others. Some of my favorite moments in the past year involved talking to teenagers who want to be writers. I've talked to students who want to know what it takes to be a writer. I've talked to teenagers who have been inspired by the fact that little old me, a nobody from a small town, got a book published. I'd like to think I'm able to show them that crazy, wild dreams do come true. It's been great, too, to have a perspective on publishing and share what I've learned about being an author.
No matter what field you are in, giving back and helping others is an awesome feeling. I've been blessed to help inspire other young writers around me to go for their dreams, put their pen to paper, and just go for it. I hope that as my journey continues, I can continue to help even more people achieve their writing goals.
4. You can't do it alone.
Many writers are introverts by nature. We look internally for comfort and companionship.
I've learned, though, that writing might be an introspective activity, but being an author is not. You have to come out of your shell. From book signings to just talking to someone on the street who wants to know about your book, you have to be a little social. It's been good for me, though. It's forced me to come out of my shell. Because of this, I've also been able to find what drives people, what connects with people, what resonates with them. I think it's made me a better, more realistic writer.
More importantly, though, I've realized how blessed I am to have such an amazing support system. My parents come to every event, put signs up in their yard, and tell everyone about my books. My husband puts magnets on his truck and wears his T-shirt about my book everywhere. He's there to reassure me when I feel like a failure or on those hard days of criticism or rejection.
I have so many friends who have been there for me. From attending author events to being the first to review my books to simply believing in me, I am so blessed to have such a great support system. Thank you to all of my friends, co-workers, and fans who have helped me grow as a writer and gain confidence. I couldn't do this without you.
In short, I've learned in this past year that writing is truly a roller coaster. There are certainly times when it is frustrating, when you ask yourself if it is worth all of the late nights and tired eyes and second guessing.
In the past year, though, I've learned that for me, it is, without a doubt, worth it. I've lived my wildest dreams this past year. It hasn't been perfect, and I still have a lot to learn.
But I think anytime you're living your wildest dream, it's worth it.
So I keep writing.